About danny_g

Danny G, your humble host and blogger, has been working in community theatre since 1996, travelling the globe on and off since 1980, and caring more about nerd stuff than he should since before he can remember. And now he shares all of that with you.

Best of Comic TV 2021: The Rankings!

Alright. Here we go. The full rankings. Maybe you have some theories about what’s near the top, based on who kept getting mentioned, and who might be closer to the bottom, based on who hasn’t been mentioned at all. Will this be the first year a freshman series doesn’t win, or will the Disney+ era of Marvel keep the tradition going? Let’s find out together! Well, not together, I already know… anyway.

But first…

In Memorium

Farewell to some shows that have left us this season, for good or ill…

Agents of SHIELD. First in and very nearly last out of the pre-Disney+ Marvel TV era. It took work to make this show as reliably charming as it was for so long. They had a show with no recognizable characters except Phil Coulson, that claimed to be in the MCU but could almost never get permission to use major Marvel characters, that had to wait 16 episodes to be allowed to have a plot, that got no love or recognition from any other live-action Marvel property, even f**king Inhumans… and it was perhaps the most consistently entertaining and most loved pre-Feige Marvel TV show. Maybe season five was the stronger “final season,” but this adorable band of scrappy misfits/leading experts in their fields kept me invested to the end, even though the last handful of episodes made that super tough. I’m gonna miss the core cast for a while, because whatever the die-hard “it’s all connected” fans think, we won’t be seeing them again. (Seriously, stop speculating that such-and-such SHIELD character is turning up on so-and-so Marvel project, it likely ain’t happening.)

Black Lightning: Honestly this one was a surprise. It’s the first CW superhero show to end after less than six years. Maybe shooting in Georgia made it harder, I don’t know, I just know that it felt like the Pierce family, gadgeteer/tailor/ex-black ops agent Gambi, and albino crime lord Tobias Whale still had some mileage in them.

Jupiter’s Legacy: Are we surprised this one’s cancelled? It had no buzz. Almost nobody was talking about it, and the ones who were weren’t being complimentary.

Stumptown: Damn it, I thought I was getting more of this. Damn COVID for derailing the entire entertainment industry and damn you ABC for giving me hope and taking it away. We all deserved much more of Dex, Grey, Tookie, and the gang. I’m confident I’ll see Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson in something before long, but less confident it’ll be this good.

WandaVision: Like Watchmen before it, they had one story to tell, told it very well, and left it there. Honestly I don’t know how you even could do that show a second time.

That melancholy business complete, time for the rankings, and capsule reviews that vary wildly in length based on whether I’ve discussed this show already. Let’s begin!

(Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t cancelled, Falcon and the Winter Soldier got called up to the majors, instead of a second season they get to be Captain America 4 in Phase Five.)

Next Page: The participation trophies

Best of Comic TV 2021: The Characters!

This part gets tougher every year. More prestige shows drawing top talents, more top talents being discovered on smaller shows… on my spreadsheet (of course I have a spreadsheet, we went over this at the end of Art Vs Commerce, I am absolutely that geek), I used to flag people as green (top performances), yellow (decent but less exceptional), or red (uninspiring), but it’s been ages since I had fewer than six people flagged as green in the most categories. I basically gave up on any other colour, each year has at least one category that’s a game of inches between five to eight amazing performances.

So here’s the results of some tough, sometimes nigh impossible choices.

(Yes, I still have these categories split by gender. When comic book TV has enby, genderqueer, or genderfluid characters other than the sentient teleporting street, I’ll add a category for them as well. For some reason I love adding categories.)

The Support Staff
Guests and Newbies
Teams and Schemes
Our Heroes

Next Page: The Scene Stealers

Best of Comic TV 2021: Let’s Begin!

And here we go again. The best characters, best scenes, it’s the annual not-quite-comprehensive ranking of Comic Book TV. A little late this year because COVID delayed everything, so a) I tried to give at least some of the network shows a chance to wrap up their seasons, and b) six months watching mostly just vintage Oscar movies and their box office counterparts meant I kind of forgot how to watch serialized TV and fell behind on some stuff. But it’s okay, we’re here now, and ready to rock!

For six years running, the top show has been a freshman series. Will the MCU proper’s official entry into television keep that going? Let’s find out!

But first, a few shows not included, other than any show not ending its season before fall (sorry, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, I stalled as long as I could, see you next year)…

  • Helstrom: Come on, none of us actually cares about Helstrom, it only made it onto screens because they’d signed too many contracts for Kevin Feige to shut it down when he pulled the plug on the rest of pre-Disney+ Marvel TV. It is to Jeph Loeb-era Marvel TV what New Mutants was to the Fox X-Men franchise: an embarrassing epilogue that the new management got stuck with.
  • Pennyworth: When I finally found a way to watch the second season of Young Hot Alfred and Friends, I made it ten minutes before the story of right-wing fascists the Raven Society gradually conquering England and being cheered for making the Empire great again became a bit much. Read the goddamn room, Pennyworth. Your first season was okay but I’m not dealing with right wing fascist dystopias right now, and I happily watched a show on this list about a world-ending plague, that’s how dark Sexy Alfred decided to get. Hard pass.
  • Riverdale: The Riverdale empire seems to have collapsed, with both Sabrina and Katy Keene over, but I’m too far behind on the Last Riverdale Standing to meaningfully include it here.
  • The Walking Dead: How the hell is it possible that this show is still going after 11 years and Preacher ended after four. How are there two of them. No justice in this world.

And now, here are the shows we will be ranking, with links to blogs where appropriate. Some stalwarts, some new kids, some returning favourites that missed a year for various reasons.

I maintain my “No cartoons” rule, but I really must take a moment to endorse Invincible. It’s a good blend of laughs and gasps, funny and horrifying, but it mostly mixes the comedy and the darkness well. Mostly. It’s an excellent show with a great cast and great animation whose only flaws are a) the fact that nearly every villain is more invincible than the title character, if Invincible has super strength then maybe sometimes his opponents could at least look like they’ve been in a fight; b) it’s made us notice that bald billionaire Jeff Bezos sure likes to greenlight shows about how Superman is Bad, Actually. Kinda… kinda doing the Lex Luthor out loud these days, isn’t he…

Also MODOK’s pretty good, maybe give MODOK a watch.

Best Fights
Biggest Heartbreaks
Best Stories
Best Musical Numbers

(I added Best Opening Titles last year, but this year it’s nothing but title cards, save for Pennyworth, so there goes that.)

Next Page:

Image: Universal

Comic TV With Dan: Speed Round 2021!

Like everything else, Best of Comic TV 2021 has been delayed by COVID… I gave some CW shows a chance to wrap up and also forgot how to watch things other than vintage Oscar movies for a while… but now it’s coming up, and there are a few shows with just too much to unpack for a capsule review in the final rankings.

So I’m gonna quickly talk about a few. Also the Snyder Cut post has been on top long enough, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a handy table on contents in case you want to pick one in specific to hear about.

Sweet Tooth
Batwoman
Superman and Lois
Black Lightning requiem
Marvel TV 2.0

But not Jupiter’s Legacy. It’s not even bad in a way that’s interesting to talk about.

Next Page: Kid Venison and the World’s End

So Anyway, The Snyder Cut

Okay… I covered every best picture in Oscar history… ranked this year’s nominees to explain why I’m blasé about Nomadland beating Promising Young Woman… Comic TV Awards are at least two months out, longer if I stall to let the CW wrap the season… What’s left…

Well… guess I can talk about Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Okay so for anyone who doesn’t know, here is the story as best as we understand it. You probably know the part where Zack Snyder left the movie during post-production, and Warner Bros. brought in the second unit director of Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods to overhaul the movie into something quicker and more crowd-pleasing and accomplished only one of those things, but we have to go back a little.

You see, back in 2013, all of Hollywood was watching upstart Marvel Studios rake in money hand over fist after mega-hit The Avengers, and everyone wanted a piece of that Cinematic Universe pie, and nobody seemed in a better position to do it than Warner Bros., the owners of DC Comics. And man did WB need this, because after a decade and a bit of regularly-scheduled Harry Potters bringing in massive dollars, plus Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Warner no longer knew how to function as a studio without at least one massive franchise to lean on.

This leads us to the two Cardinal Sins of the DCEU.

Number one: Warner Bros. wanted to get to The Avengers as quickly as possible. I mean, compare the box office tallies of Captain America: The First Avenger and the much, much worse but post-Avengers Thor: The Dark World, I see where their heads were at, but it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of why Avengers was a hit.

Number two: they also wanted a new Dark Knight saga, and Dark Knight was the singular vision of Christopher Nolan… once he scraped some stupid off some first drafts by David S. Goyer, who clings to the comic book movie industry like a parasitic vine. So despite how divided audience and critical response was to the Nolan-produced, Snyder-directed Man of Steel, they went all in on Snyder’s pitch for a Justice League series that would sprinkle solo spin-offs in between Synder’s core Justice League story.

Again, a savage misunderstanding of how Marvel pulled off their big trick. Avengers worked because it brought all of these previously established characters (and also Hawkeye) into one movie, not because it introduced us to a bunch of heroes and spent the middle third of the movie nudging us in the ribs about their spin-off potential.

I was also going to discuss how Marvel has never locked into one director to steer the whole franchise, but that just gets into a debate on the Marvel House Style and how few directors managed to break out of it so let’s just move on from that.

So our two Cardinal Sins are a) rushing to the finish line, and b) going all-in on a divisive filmmaker’s five-film arc. And these problems went critical in a very predictable fashion in spring of 2016. Batman V Superman was a critical bomb, and may have opened huge, but had a massive, massive second-week drop-off, and was largely reviled for being dark, murdery, and joyless, and stopping midway through to set up sequels and spinoffs in very hamfisted manners*. And also it was seen as a bit of a mess, narratively speaking. The Ultimate Edition fixes that, but I dunno, maybe stop assuming you get to make all of your superhero movies Godfather length, Zack. It became very clear that Snyder’s grimdark vision was not clicking with the general audience, who much preferred Captain America: Civil War, which had more fun with its obligatory “heroes punch each other for a while” sequence but also managed higher emotional stakes.

(*If you want to tease the rest of the League through Wonder Woman clicking an email attachment, put that shit in the end credits where it belongs, did anyone pushing for Marvel-esque success actually watch a single Marvel movie**, Jesus Christ)

(**Other than Iron Man 2. Did everyone trying to start a Cinematic Universe only watch Iron Man 2? And then base all your plans off it? That is… that is nobody’s favourite Marvel movie.)

However, Justice League rolled cameras just weeks after Batman V Superman opened, so by the time they knew that Snyder’s initial plans were not going to play in Poughkeepsie, it was too late to switch horses and maybe find a director who didn’t think that Superman is only interesting if dead or evil. But it was clear that a course-change was still necessary, so studio execs pushed Snyder and writer Chris Terrio (who has a much-deserved Oscar for Argo, the dude can write) to lighten up Justice League*, pulled the plug on filming a sequel back-to-back, and also demanded David Ayer shove some jokes into Suicide Squad, eventually turning the final edit over to the people who made the “fun” trailer, but that’s a whole other thing.

(*Terrio always meant to do that, as with Batman V Superman he was desperately re-writing and trying to add character arcs to an overly dark script from… David Goyer, Jesus, someone remove him from DC Films, by force if necessary)

And then a year later, Snyder finished a three and a half hour rough cut, and shortly thereafter the Snyder family was rocked by a horrible tragedy as Zack’s daughter Autumn took her own life. As such Snyder had to step away from the edit, and was unable to deliver the shorter cut the studio required. Because not even Lawrence of Arabia needed to be that long, Zack, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series delivered two massive, beloved hits but he still had to produce a shorter cut of Return of the King for theatrical release, Zack. And so Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to overhaul the movie. Official accounts claimed Zack was fully on board, and even chose him to write/film a few additional scenes. Snyderbros view it very differently, and honestly everything we’ve learned since suggests Zack was just saying he was on board to avoid more bad publicity than this magnitude of re-shooting already attracts, just like how the cast, even Ray Fisher, claimed the reshoots were a fun and smooth experience and we know that wasn’t true.

So anyway the theatrical cut of Justice League was a weird hybrid, part super-serious Snyder action and part Avengers-style goofy banter, the villain plot was word salad, nobody had an arc, it was a major box-office disappointment. I was trying as hard as I could to like it, but the only review I was willing to write was as a subplot in a different post to highlight how much better the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Earth-X was.

And thus began the fan campaign to hashtag release the Snyder Cut, with fans believing that Zack Snyder had made a much superior version to what they called “Josstice League,” fed by Zack Snyder single-handedly keeping would-be-Twitter-replacement Vero in business by constantly sharing screenshots and behind-the-scenes photos, attempting to release his entire movie frame at a time.

Nearly three years later, in the midst of a global pandemic that had shut down the entire entertainment industry, Warner Bros was unable to release movies theatrically on the scale needed to turn profits, filming was being delayed everywhere, and they needed content for their fledgling streaming service HBO Max, so they said “Eh, screw it,” and gave Zack $70 million to finish his version of the movie to debut on streaming, something people had been expecting since HBO Max was announced. And now here it is, it’s out there, you can watch it, and I’m here to help you decide if you should.

A little over a month after that was a relevant question. Look I was busy with Art Vs Commerce at the time, Slumdog Millionaire and The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy weren’t rewatching themselves.

Given that it’s four hours of movie, there’s a lot to cover, so I asked myself what one of my favourite video essayists, Jenny Nicholson, would do, and organized my thoughts into an internet-friendly numbered list.

(Patrick Willems would have made a framing sequence in the visual style of his subject but I’m not currently equipped for that.)

  1. Yes, it’s better, calm down
  2. The League: Better or worse?
  3. Style over substance
  4. The theatrical additions
  5. Worst arguments from Snyder fans
  6. Why I hate Knightmare
  7. The best version
  8. The ideal Justice League sequel plan

Next Page: Yes, it’s better, calm down

Ranking the Best Pictures, 2021 Style!

Okay. Wow. After six months… six months, what even is time… on a deep dive through Best Pictures Past, it’s time for a massive gear shift to look at Best Pictures Present, the nominees from 2020.

Which… okay.

Honestly I’m mad at the Oscars this year.

Seeing as the entertainment industry was shut down by COVID for most of the year, the Academy delayed the eligibility period, they were more open to streaming, they did whatever they could to ensure that the Oscars would not have to pick and choose from what few movies made it into theatres before the lockdown, or inadvisably during it, thanks for that Christopher Nolan, Tenet’s sound mixing was bad and you should feel bad.

Personally, I felt that after the trash fire of 2020, what we as a society (such as it is) deserved was the Trash Oscars. The Best Pictures selected only from what came out between January and early March, or snuck into theatres when America just… somehow got bored of fighting COVID. But no, what they felt we needed was a ceremony celebrating festival darlings, some streaming movies… eight mostly joyless films.

As someone on Twitter (don’t recall who) said, the only Awards Discourse worth having is when we decided suffering was more artistic than joy, because maybe this level of morosity isn’t what we needed right now. Maybe what we really needed was the unconditional love of Going My Way’s Father Chuck O’Malley.

Anyway I watched them all and now I’m gonna rank them and say which one I think least deserves to lose to Nomadland, unless that is my favourite, who knows, let’s find out!

And perhaps I’ll say what my Trash Oscar replacement movie would be. Won’t be easy, I only saw like two movies before theatres shut down… might need some legit good ones in there too. Also, since I just finished a rank order of every Best Picture in Oscar history (Art Vs Commerce, still available on finer internets everywhere), I’m sure you’re curious where these would be on the list if they won. Well, get curious, because you’re gonna find out where they fall between #1 and #94, they won’t be #94, I hit rock bottom in 1933 and there was nowhere to go but up for 87 years.

I’m sorry, Cavalcade, I know you didn’t ask to be dragged on the internet for six months, I mean how could you have known that was an option, but I seriously can’t remember a single moment when you didn’t bore me, unlike any of the following.

Next Page: The bottom half

Art Vs Commerce: Oscar Bait and Endgames (2010s)

[Clears throat, taps conductor’s podium]

One post more
Of my trek through Oscar history
Why I did this, still a mystery
We’re at the point of Oscar flicks
When studios all know the tricks
One post more

Bland films win to our dismay
Better nominees they’re ducking.
(One post more)
But then they’ll go the other way
Korean films, or monster fucking.

One more post of trying to find
(“Other Events” got really long)
Some logic to all of these Oscars
(Couldn’t stick to the deep cuts…)
Have I gone Beautiful Mind
(How I miss Yancey Cravat)
Or are the patterns truly there

One more post of duelling flicks
(And no more Joint Champions)
Only two more that I’m dreading
(Sometimes the hits got really bad)
Sadly lots of biopics
(And a little Michael Bay)
Come and finish this with meeeee

The past is done
Endgame is here

One post more

Decade’s full of superheroes,
A new Star War had begun,
But a bunch of rabid fanboys
Ruin both for everyone.

One post more

Disney runs amuck
Buys up all they can
Knows we’re all awestruck
For Marvel’s Iron Man
Princesses still sell
Pixar always scores
But why make a new thing when you can buy Star Wars

I once ranked all of these movies
(Even those that didn’t win)
So we’ll check in how they rate
(Hurt Locker was fiftieth)
Some of these are legit classics
(Can Casablanca be unthroned?)
Some are blatant Oscar bait
That’s right, King’s Speech
My fight’s with yoooooouuuuu

One post more

Four franchises hit their Endgame
We said goodbye to movie friends,
But nostalgia-based revivals
Prove that brand names never end.
(One post more)
Fans can be a gift,
Fanboys are a curse,
Now they won’t shut up
About the Snyderverse
(God curse all the toxic fanboys)
Next Oscars are not far away
Eight joyless films compete that day

So now we’ll all revisit
What 2010s films had in store

Ten more years
One more post

ONE POST MOOOOOORE

Next Page: The Baitiest Oscar Bait that ever Baited

Art Vs Commerce: Trilogies! Of Terror? (2000s)

Last time we talked about how Forrest Gump was a signal flare to the film industry that the Academy liked safe over challenging. Talk about racism, sure, but don’t make anyone uncomfortable, just have an old Jewish lady learn to be less racist because of her black driver, or have someone dismiss the KKK as “sometimes people do things that make no sense.” Don’t make Do The Right Thing, that’s too much. We are going to see more of that, and we’re going to see it quickly. In the 21st Century, Oscar Movie became a genre, Oscar Season its nesting ground, and the more studios tried to quantify what would get Oscars, the more bait-y Oscar movies got, the less they appealed to audience, the further Oscar ratings fell… and the Oscar Bump that boosted nominees’ gross began to vanish.

In other developments… People suddenly liked the ideas of Trilogies in the 2000s. Not just a franchise, but a Trilogy. If your movie made money, suddenly the creator “always meant for it to be a trilogy.” And several notable ones had the same pattern: make a relatively stand-alone movie with a neat premise (the stand-alone part is something studios forgot about in the past fiveish years); if it makes money, film a second that expands on the world you created, and a third that utterly disappoints wraps it all up, and for preference film those two back-to-back so we’re not wondering what happens to Han Solo for three years. Perhaps because the 80s and 90s brought us so many classic trilogies: Star Wars, Godfather, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones in a way. Jones was always more of series of standalones than a proper trilogy but we counted it. Meanwhile, franchises that tried to keep going indefinitely?

Well… to paraphrase a movie we’ll be talking about on page ten, you either die a trilogy, or live long enough to see yourself become Jaws: The Revenge.

And let’s be real… in two pages we’re going to be talking about another series that made the Trilogy look better. Gonna be spending about a third of this post on it, in fact. The One Trilogy to Rule Them All.

With that in mind… if the Best Pictures of the Aughts were the Fellowship of the Ring, which would each one be and why? Let’s find out!

Next page: Are you not entertained?

Art Vs Commerce: Rise of Oscar Season (90s)

So when last we left the dance between Oscar winners and the top earners, Commerce had blown up and left Art in the distance. The Oscars fell back into biopics, with four out of ten winners being biopics, also Amadeus which doesn’t count, and audiences started saying “Yeah, you do you, Oscars” and ignoring them.

Now this had two effects, from what I can tell. First off… art movies kind of… receded? For half the decade (off and on), the Oscars seem to be once again leaning towards crowd-pleasers over what was becoming their usual arthouse fare. Was this a conscious choice, or was it that the only people leaning into High Art were Merchant Ivory? (Merchant Ivory, purveyors of languid period romances, were in full swing this decade but never sealed the deal at the ceremony and were never big money films so we don’t discuss them much.) There definitely seem to be some years where, even at the time, I thought “Wow, not a big year for for art movies if these are the nominees.”

But then some studios had themselves an idea.

Sure their Oscar fare might not play well in the summer or against the big November/December tentpoles, nothing plays well in September, and if you release them too early in the year then people forget about them come nomination time… but here’s the thing. There’s a loophole. To be eligible for Oscar nominations, you only need to play a limited time in a limited amount of theatres by the year’s end. So you do a week in LA, maybe New York, open wide in January when nothing’s happening, get yourself a Best Picture nomination and scoop up an extra $10 million or so when the buzz hits.

And so begins Oscar Season. The time of year when studios who want some prestige, in addition to a multi-film action/comedy tentpole franchise starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson*, toss out some Great Man Biopics with flashy lead actor performances or classic literary adaptations or films that played well enough at festivals to warrant a “For Your Consideration” campaign.

(*I kid, I also some Dwayne Johnson.)

(Not that all studios are choosy about what movies got FYC campaigns, The Bone Collector got a FYC campaign, and you couldn’t tell me one detail about what that movie’s about if I paid you.)

(I will not pay you, I’m aware you’re on the internet right now.)

And where loopholes exist, monsters arise to take advantage. If prestige and money can go hand-in-hand again… well. The Golden Globes are easily swayed by shiny things and schmoozing with big casts (explain how The Tourist got a Best Musical/Comedy nomination otherwise, Hollywood Foreign Press, the few positive reviews were embarrassed about it), and enough money and pressure can get you on that Best Picture list at the Oscars.

A perfect situation for somebody trying to be an Old School Studio Head like Louis B. Mayer.

Exactly like Louis B. Mayer.

Right down to getting handsy or worse with your female talent.

Miramax Films was an incredibly influential studio through the 90s. Bought by Disney in 1993, they gave platforms to young, experimental, eventually heavily influential filmmakers: Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Stephen Chow, and one Quentin Tarantino. Miramax helped Peter Jackson get Lord of the Rings into production.

It was also run by an absolute monster named Harvey Weinstein, whose crimes were numerous and Hollywood’s worst kept secret, yet it took decades for him to be brought down, and now hopefully he’ll stay in prison and away from actresses until he’s too old to hurt anyone.

Sadly we will have to come back to Harvey sooner rather than later. But let’s see what we can get through before then.

Our new game? The 90s are where the Oscars fell back into some legendarily bad calls. So we’ll be asking what the real best picture was, or what should have taken the box office crown. (No decade owns bad choices by audiences, that is forever.)

(I’ll give the 90s this, at least the Domestic/International Box Office Champs sync up more than they don’t. I’m gonna miss that moving forward.)

Next Page: White saviours, alive and otherwise

Art Vs Commerce: This Time It’s Personal (1980s)

So up until now, “Art Vs Commerce” has been more of a friendly rivalry. The Golden Age/Studio Era didn’t have the same hard line between “art movie” and “popcorn movie,” or in other words “award movie” and “movie that makes money,” like we have today.

Up until this point, the Best Pictures and Box Office Champs have been somewhat aligned. The Box Office Champ has been nominated for if not won Best Picture 35 out of 52 times*. Even more significant? The Best Picture winner was in the box office top ten for the year 44 times.

Well that’s changing. Eight Best Picture winners didn’t make the top ten box office for the years between 1928 and 1979**. Eight out of fifty-two. In the 80s, it’s five out of ten. That’s a pretty dramatic shift. And come the 2000s that’s only gonna get worse.

It’s as though Art and Commerce are like Clark Kent and Lex Luthor in the first few seasons of Smallville let me finish. [Ahem] In the first few seasons (20s-60s), they’re good friends, admittedly they have some drastically different goals, but their interests do tend to overlap. Then comes season five (the 70s/80s), and suddenly their interests are at odds, and they begin to go from friends to enemies. One starts to get bigger and more ambitious, one tries to prove they’re smarter and grows to hate anything with a cape and a secret identity.

(Am I the only one to use Smallville to describe the growing rift between Oscar movies and popcorn movies? Because I’m not sorry. Honestly I’d have used Gotham but it’s impossible to describe the relationship between any two characters on that show without a corkboard and a lot of yarn.)

And the reason why? Blockbusters. Audiences were turning out in bigger numbers for popcorn flicks, which allowed studios to spend more money on them, leading to bigger hits. And more importantly, they had no set genre. Big hits in past decades tended to focus on a genre: the 40s liked war movies, the 50s acted righteous with biblical epics, the 60s got big into musicals, and the early 70s enjoyed a disaster movie. But the thing about genres is they hit a saturation point, often because studios flood the market trying to get a piece of the new hotness, then average quality drops while quantity shoots up, a bunch fail, and the bubble bursts. The one exception seems to be the current King Genre that one studio in particular is keeping afloat, I’m sure I needn’t name either.

But blockbusters weren’t a genre, they were just a scale of movie. They could be anything. A space opera, a superhero, an archaeologist punching Nazis, a kid travelling back in time to get his father some action. Anything. They were immune to genre fatigue or changing tastes. The only thing that could kill blockbusters would be, I don’t know, a deadly global pandemic that forced all public forms of entertainment to shut down indefinitely, but the 80s had a different kind of deadly global pandemic. So there were more and more blockbusters that got bigger and bigger, and there was less and less room at the box office for the simpler, human stories the Oscars were embracing.

So this decade we have a new game: no matter how far apart in tone and content they get, what thematic link joins them? And what would the mash-up movie look like? That could be fun. ‘Cause the distances get wide.

*The 17 box office champs that didn’t get nominated include a couple of classics, but are mostly things the Academy skips: comedies, a cartoon, a superhero flick. And also, thankfully, Cinerama Holiday, This is the Army, and the entire oeuvre of Eddie goddamn Cantor.

**The eight Best Pictures audiences didn’t turn out for are Cavalcade, The Life of Emile Zola, Gentleman’s Agreement, Hamlet, All the King’s Men, On the Waterfront, Marty, and In the Heat of the Night. So… real mixed bag there.

Before we move on, I just need a moment… based on what I intend to include, I have crossed the halfway point of my watch list!

I am now in the back nine oh no I reminded myself of mortality quick more space wizards

Not counting any optional viewings I might throw in down the road. Like, say, if two movies from a particular trilogy make the list in one way or another, but the objectively best one doesn’t, I might just go ahead and rewatch the other one anyway. But what are the odds of that happening. Three times. In one decade.

Oof. Might need to move this along if I’m going to wrap this project up before the Oscars improbably happen this spring, and I have to compare/contrast Nomadland or Mank with 2020’s default box office champ… let’s see here… Bad Boys For Life? Huh.

Congrats, Hollywood, you’ve concocted a scenario where I’d be disappointed to not be watching Sonic the Hedgehog.

Anyway let’s get tubular with the 1980s!

Next Page: Ordinary Vs Extraordinary