Oscar 2024: Bring on the Best Pictures!

Okay, sure, I’ve been gone from this for a while, two different film review podcasts take a certain amount of time, recent travel stories have just been “Had a chill time but got rained on a lot at Disneyworld,” and mountain life means not a lot of theatre stories. But I do recall liking writing as a thing, so I’m trying to reintroduce that into my existence, starting with the annual Best Picture Ranking!

Normally I’d say that I watched all the nominees so you don’t have to, but, like… maybe you should? Normally there’s a whole page of this process called “The Also-Rans” or “The Lesser Half” or “The Ones I’m Mad I Had To Watch” but this year… this year was a good year. Nine very solid movies, the internet cannot form a consensus over which is the objective best, even if voters seem to have made a choice at time of writing. The Zone Crew, Fall Stans, Life Lovers, and Oppenheads argue back and forth while some are willing to die mad that All Of Us Strangers was ignored or that voters assumed the exquisitely constructed world of Barbie just happened by accident without a central figure orchestrating it.

But anyway let’s get this going.

Next page: The “Sorry I Didn’t Like Your Favourite More” Section

Sorting the Screams

I wasn’t always a horror fan.

I have seen zero Child’s Plays, one Halloween in my projectionist days, and feel like I saw the porn parody of Texas Chainsaw Massacre before I’d seen the original. Which endeared me neither to chainsaw massacres nor porn movies.

Sure, sometimes on a childhood sleepover we’d rent a Nightmare on Elm Street and it wouldn’t necessarily give me nightmares, per se, but still unpleasant dreams and maybe some inexplicable vomiting. By university, I’d seen two Nightmares on Elm Street, two Fridays the 13th, and one Phantasm that didn’t start with Mask of the, and I did not care for that last one at all. Shouldn’t have skipped the first one, I was lost.

Then Scream happened.

And even though the first reaction I recall having, filled to the brim with terror for poor Drew Barrymore, was “Why did I choose to do this to myself,” suddenly I was a 90s horror fan. Even the bad ones! I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Final Destination, fucking Valentine, gimme ’em all, I said.

And then Scream 4 came out and I just… never got to it. For over 11 years.

But having been swept up in the 2022 Horror Renaissance (Barbarian, Smile, The Menu, X, no, Prey For the Devil, not you) and having recently binged the entire Conjuring franchise on… whatever you call a dare when nobody was pressuring you and didn’t really care if you actually did it… and with Scream VI right around the corner, I decided it was time to get back into the franchise.

And it turns out, I really like Scream movies.

From the original gang of Sidney, Dewey, and Gale to the Carpenter Sisters and their Core Four, Scream movies are, more often than not, a good time. It might not be Wes Craven’s most iconic horror franchise, but I think it’s the most consistently good. Probably because it’s the one he stuck with the longest.

So I decided to binge the whole franchise and report back my thoughts. And to help organize said thoughts, I’m-a rank order these movies on the following categories:

  1. The Cold Open Kill. A franchise staple. Someone gets a phone call, maybe gets asked their favourite scary movie, and gets horribly knife-murdered.
  2. Ghostface’s Motive. What makes a person or pair of people decide to do a Ghostface, something with a 100% fatality rate (we think)?
  3. The Setpiece Kills. Look if you’re judging horror flicks (that aren’t Conjuring or Babadook) and not rating the kills, what are you even doing?
  4. The Randy. Someone has to be a giant film nerd, in order to convey…
  5. The Rules. Self-awareness of the genre they’re in is a staple of this franchise.
  6. The Third-Act Reveal. We’ve learned why Ghostface is, sure, but how hard were we hit by who Ghostface is?
  7. The Improbability of the Surprise Survivor. Scream is not about “final girls,” even if it reliably has a leading contender. There are always a handful of survivors, and almost always one fakeout kill. Basically if you don’t see the life leave their eyes, don’t count them out. And I’m never mad about the Surprise Survivor, but how likely was it?

You’ll note there isn’t much on the characters, and I’ll quickly explain why. Most horror franchises live or die on their iconic killer: people want to see Jason, Michael Myers, or very specifically Robert Englund as Freddy do their brutal thing. New Final Girls spring up every one or two movies, but the rest of the cast is just grist for the mill. But since Ghostface is an idea (and the voice of Roger L. Jackson), Scream needs to thrive on its core characters, and with only two writing teams across six movies, they’re pretty consistent. Sidney is the survivor trying to escape a cycle of violence; Gale Weathers is the lynchpin of the franchise because she isn’t Final Girl material, she’s opportunistic and abrasive and her refusal to die throws more than one Ghostface’s plans into chaos, I love her; Dewey is a bit of a goober who just wants to help; Tara is a fighter who never asked to be one; and Samantha… oh, Sam you might yet be my favourite. They’re all good, often great, but hard to rank film by film.

Obviously several of these categories have spoilers. So I’d suggest you, too, hop onto the internet and binge these movies and then meet me on the next page. Or skip the ones that are gonna give big things away.

Actually even the posters spoil some stuff so if you really care about that, go ahead to the next page.

To begin, a summary of our contestants:

A killer in a ghost-faced mask begins targeting local teens, especially Sidney Prescott, whose mother was brutally killed a year ago, and who may have fingered the wrong man as her murderer. Sidney, her best friend Tatum, Tatum’s deputy sheriff brother Dewey, and tabloid reporter Gale Weathers have to find a killer before the killer finds them.

After giving meta-horror a spin in New Nightmare, Wes Craven leaves Freddy Krueger behind to take the idea to a new level, and man alive did it work.

Kill Count (not including Ghostfaces): 5

Years later, Sidney is now off to college, and Gale’s book on the Woodsboro Murders has become an apparently highly anticipated horror movie called “Stab,” this will be important for some time. Someone’s out to homage the original killings, with the ultimate goal of finishing what the original Ghostface killers started. Our survivors and Cotton Weary, the man Sidney falsely accused of killing her mother, have to figure out who the new killers are and what they’re after before the killer hunts them all down. Assuming none of them are the killer. Not a safe assumption.

Also I’m not surprised Sarah Michelle Gellar got offered horror movies early in the run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I am surprised she never got a Final Girl. It’s like the horror genre thought she owed a debt for killing all them vampires.

Kill Count: 8

A new Ghostface begins attacking the cast of the in-production Stab 3, and it’s not long before Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are drawn into the hunt for the latest killer. But whoever it is keeps dropping photos of Sidney’s late mother, suggesting this new killer has a connection to the murder that started it all. Because trilogies have to go full circle, they think. Or at least have a connection to the past.

Kill Count: 9

Eleven years after the Stab 3 massacre, right before the anniversary of the original Ghostface murders, Sidney returns to Woodsboro to promote her new autobiography/self-help book, but finds a new Ghostface is targeting the friend group of her young cousin Jill. Someone’s out to reboot the franchise, meaning more deaths, more twists, and more meta-commentary. Also somehow there have been four other Stab movies in the last 11 years, how did that happen. If Todd Phillips snapped and killed the entire principal cast of Joker: Folie a Deux, I would not expect further Joker sequels.

Kill Count: 9

First off I enjoy that even the script of this movie calls out that it absolutely should have been called Scream 5.

Eleven years after the last Woodsboro killings, a new Ghostface emerges, with a wave of attacks that appear to be targeting sisters Samantha and Tara Carpenter (and those around them, obviously), who have been estranged since Sam left town after learning a terrible secret: her real father was one of the original Ghostfaces, and now she’s hallucinating him guiding her into being a killer like he was. And, of course, if there’s a new Ghostface in town, Sidney Prescott and crew are going to take an interest, if reluctantly. Someone’s out to requel the Stab franchise and everyone close to the Carpenters is either at risk or hiding a big knife.

Kill Count: 6

Looking too closely at that poster is in itself a bunch of spoilers.

A year after surviving the Stab requel, the Carpenter sisters and their friends have moved all the way across the country to New York, but the internet has decided that Sam was the real killer, and she’s still trying to hold Hallucination Murder Daddy at bay, so things aren’t going great. Which only gets worse when a new Ghostface shows up, feeling Sam must be punished for her role in last year’s events. Who can the Core Four trust? Is Tara dealing with last year healthily? Is being a Ghostface Sam’s destiny?

Kill Count: 10 (counting some Ghostfaces, I’ll explain), but only four are actual characters of note. Four are barely more than featured extras, and two we never actually saw alive on screen. I’m not mad, knifing a few randoms along the path is a perfectly acceptable way to boost your kill count, I’m just saying.

Okay. Let’s begin. And along the way, since Scream movies love the rules of horror movies, let’s look at some rules of this specific franchise.

Next page: The star you shouldn’t get attached to

2022’s Best Pictures (Citation Needed)

Haven’t been around much as I have two projects that require a certain amount of my time, but Oscar Season is upon us, ten movies are vying for the trophy, and once again I, your pop culture sin eater, have watched them so you don’t have to.

And hey, to an untrained eye, it even looks like they’ve learned some lessons from previous years! It’s not wall-to-wall bummers like two years back! The pre-season buzz didn’t go all in on the wrong movies like last year! There’s been an improvement in both biopics and “Famous filmmaker makes movie about his youth” movies, yes that second one sounds weirdly specific, but at least there’s only one, there were two of them last year. There are actual crowd pleasers! Movies people actually saw! In fact the two highest grossing movies of the whole damn year are here! And almost certainly neither of them will win, but it’s just nice to see Academy and Audience playing nice for a minute.

So here, for your enjoyment and edification, I present the so-called best pictures of 2022, nominees for the 2023 Oscars, ranked in my order of preference, along with where I’d rank them overall if they won.

Not gonna name movies I think should have been nominated because honestly I don’t know that I saw ten movies I think deserved a nomination (I love The Batman but I also live in the real world), so let’s just say this:

Babylon is a dizzying, disorienting, fever dream of a movie on how Hollywood changed not just through the introduction of sound, but in conservatism creeping in to “clean up” the industry. Sure the main plot points seem to be about sound’s impact, but pay attention and you see how Hollywood had to become more puritan, less female-driven, less queer, and way more white. Our primary protagonist goes by “Manny” and claims to be Spanish because he knows Manuel from Mexico won’t last long as a studio producer; a starlet is pushed aside because you can’t be Asian and openly gay in William Randolph Hearst’s Hollywood; the parties get tamer and tamer, only for the reveal that the real party just moved underground, and when that happens, the mob gets involved and things get dark. And through it all, four people try to cheat mortality through the movies. It was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but Babylon was a wild ride I’ve enjoyed unpacking, I’m glad it exists, there are multiple movies that deserve to be on this list way less.

Glass Onion is an absurdly well-constructed mystery, the hints and reveals all placed perfectly, the cast astounding, the script inhumanly clever, and it’s the perfect skewering of the myth that being a billionaire means you’re a genius. Its only crime is not being quite as good as its predecessor, Knives Out, but come on, what is?

Let’s begin.

Next Page: Back of the pack

Best of Comic TV 2022: The Rankings!

We know who did what best, time to count ’em off. A lot of freshman shows in the mix, and more than one that we heard a lot about in the previous posts… will the old tradition of freshman shows taking the top spot return? Read on!

But first, pour a forty for these former shows… feels like for the first time more shows in the rankings are in this section or about to be than aren’t…

In Memorium

Batwoman: Batwoman had a rough ride, given the replacement of their title and central character after one COVID-shortened season. While I had my reservations about replacing the iconic Batwoman, Kate Kane, with an original character, Ryan Wilder brought a new level of vital social commentary to the show that the proper canonical Batwoman couldn’t: a black woman railroaded by a corrupt and racist law enforcement system speaks more to our current era than a wealthy white woman who, yes, is gay, so conservatives want her dead, but still. But while some people consider the third season its best (I can see that, it is the one with no origins), to me it became the new poster child for what had been going wrong with the Arrowverse: denied access to characters that might be in movies or HBO Max shows, they just said “We’ll make our OWN Batwoman! And our OWN Poison Ivy! And our OWN Joker!” and I didn’t love that. But the core cast was mostly solid (poor Sophie only briefly had a purpose other than “Love interest to whoever’s Batwoman”), and Rachel Skarsten’s Alice was a perpetual delight. With the exception of one scene, they brought their cast to a decent place of closure, and I thank them for that, even if it’s a little unfortunate they have to end here.

DMZ: Miniseries, doesn’t count

Legends of Tomorrow: Oh it hurts me to put this show in this section. Sure, they did even more than Batwoman to forge the unfortunate Arrowverse trend of “Well if we can’t use anyone the film/HBO Max branch wants, we’ll make our own superheroes! With blackjack and hookers entirely original characters!” It drifted pretty far from being able to legitimately call itself “DC’s” Legends of Tomorrow or even “a superhero show,” but it never drifted from being fun, moving, and full of delightful misfits that I shall miss terribly. Legends of Tomorrow lived and died as the most underrated Arrowverse show, and we were lucky to have it as long as we did. Sadly Warner Bros. decided it was done owning part of the CW, and using it to generate shows to sell to Netflix, and that came with casualties.

Lucifer: By what possible right was this show this good. It started as Castle but with the literal Devil instead of a mystery writer, something I watched mostly for the charm of its lead actor, then within two episodes of season two it was appointment viewing. It was a deconstruction of religious iconography, a deep dive into the dysfunctional divine family, and a show that’s funny, suspenseful, incredibly moving, and despite starring the former King of Hell… so very human. They made their cast of humans, angels, demons, and rotating celestials-of-the-season some of the most compelling characters around, old friends I’m sad I won’t be seeing more of. Also they solved murders! Almost every episode! If you haven’t seen it? Get on that. I shall miss it terribly, while rewatching it often.

Naomi: Okay so the thing is, Marvel pushed the “It’s all connected” angle for a reason. Even when the film and television branches were completely separate, they still had “It’s all one universe” to con people into watching Iron Fist or even Inhumans on the off chance that one of the characters would later, I don’t know, turn up in a Doctor Strange movie or something. Naomi decided they didn’t need any of that and created a separate universe for their show, and it turns out this was the worst possible season to do that on a network unsure of its future. Despite her creator’s ongoing attempts to bootstrap Naomi onto the DC A-list, she’s still more deep cut than icon, so maybe they needed the crutch of a connected universe. Still, one less show with a queer BIPOC lead is always worth mourning.

Supergirl: The Maid of Might survived cancellation by CBS, moving to another network and city, budget cuts, a pandemic, having to film a third of their final season while their title character was on maternity leave, some of the net’s most rabid ‘shippers, and people thinking that a hero standing up against hatred and intolerance is “too political.” But it was brought down, at least in part, by the same thing that felled Arrow a season earlier… the lead actor deciding they wanted to move on. Melissa Benoist gave us one of the most passionate, devoted, moving heroes in last past six years, and if she wants to hang up the cape for new endeavours and to spend more time with her husband and new son, she’s earned that. Godspeed, Kara Zor-El/Danvers.

Y, The Last Man: Look it’s inherently sad that a project that languished in five kinds of development hell for over a decade finally saw the light of day only to be almost immediately cancelled, even if they didn’t quite sell me on the result.

The Arrowverse: Arrow is over, Supergirl is over, Batwoman, Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning are all over, and given revelations in the season finale, Superman and Lois went the way of Dwayne Johnson in The Fast Saga… once they spun him off on his own, he essentially cut ties with the rest of the franchise. (At time of writing Stargirl isn’t cancelled yet, but they’re on Earth-2, they barely count as Arrowverse adjacent.) And there seem to be no more Arrowverse shows coming*. Flash is the last one standing and it’s ending next year. Who would have thought a show about Green Arrow’s early days as an archery-based vigilante, cribbing heavily from Nolan’s ultra-grounded Dark Knight trilogy, would eventually lead to time travelling sorcerers, a full multiverse, the Legion of Superheroes, Brandon Routh reprising Superman, Jon Cryer absolutely nailing Lex Luthor, live-action Gorilla Grodd on network TV, annual crossovers that routinely put The Defenders to shame, and the first live-action adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths? COVID putting a stop to the annual crossovers took the wind out of their sails, and Warner Bros. deciding to sell off their share of the CW seems to be the kill shot, but while quality could vary wildly from show to show and season to season, it was still a great ride. We shan’t see its equal soon, not unless HBO Max gets its act together and quickly.

*Don’t talk to me about Gotham Knights, Gotham Knights is set in yet another self-contained continuity like Naomi and Pennyworth and I already dislike them for it.

Now, let’s begin.

Next Page: The Participation Trophies

Best of Comic TV 2022: The Characters!

Okay, fights were fought, songs were sung, tears were shed… sometimes during the songs, don’t you dare judge me… let’s talk characters.

Best Guest Star

Everyone loves a good guest star, it’s why even the Emmys have awards for the people who strolled in for a handful of episodes, or even just one, and absolutely stole the show.

Here’s who did that.

Honourable Mentions: Vincent D’Onfrio proved he hasn’t lost a step as Kingpin in Hawkeye; Giancarlo Esposito is brilliant as always as Stan Edgar on The Boys; the brief finale cameos from Peacemaker were super fun; it’s always fun to see Mark Sheppard stop by Doom Patrol; and 90s Flash John Wesley Shipp played golden age Flash Jay Garrick on two shows this year, let’s keep that going, I love it every time.

Bronze: The Armageddon Crew, The Flash

Plus a few not pictured.

The writers of The Flash miss the annual crossovers as much as we do, but COVID realities mean that actors can’t still easily pop between sets, so a proper crossover remains out of reach. So instead, the Flash producers looked back at past seasons, asked “Who doesn’t have a show right now,” and pulled out the rolodex to fill the opening arc of season eight with familiar faces to give it that classic crossover feel. And not just anyone, some old favourites that made the podium around these parts at least once. Brandon Routh was back as Ray Palmer/The Atom, Chyler Leigh basically strolled over right from the finale of Supergirl to bring Alex Danvers to Central City; Katherine McNamara gave us some follow-up on the cliffhanger from Mia Queen’s failed backdoor pilot; Damien and Nora Darhk show up, Damien’s never not fun. And on top of them, a flash-forward gave us Ryan Choi as the new Atom*; Javicia Leslie managed to sneak off the Batwoman set to make up for not getting to meet Superman last season; Cress Williams brings his gravitas to Black Lightning talking Barry out of a bad choice… there was always someone. Some fun old friend to help “Armageddon” feel epic.

(*That one felt a little “Come on we have to do it once before we shut this thing down, we can’t introduce Ryan Choi from the comics and do literally nothing worthwhile with him, we aren’t Zack Snyder.”)

Silver: The OGs, Legends of Tomorrow

I wanted one thing from the 100th episode of Legends of Tomorrow, a show whose cast has had so much turnover it’s barely recognizable from season one: the return of the OG Legends. And by the gods, they delivered. The Waverider’s AI, Gideon, has become human, and to help her time-computer mind transition to a human brain, two of the latest Legends have to accompany her on a trip through her memories to find her place as a human/time computer hybrid.

And it was a treat.

Look when the theme swells at the end it just gets to me.

Sure there’s a few missing… Dominic Purcell had just left the show last season, and not necessarily on the best terms, so no Heat Wave… Matt Ryan had spent the hiatus growing a beard and changing his hair for his new character, so no John Constantine… I couldn’t tell you why they couldn’t squeeze in Hawkgirl or Amaya/Charlie… but other than those four they got everyone of note back. Yep, everyone of note.

Okay the gag was that I’m ignoring the fact that Mona Wu wasn’t there either because she wasn’t a good add to the cast and mercifully didn’t last long but I can see that some of you aren’t getting that so you know what let’s move on.

Gold: Paul Reiser as The Legend, The Boys

The golden age Hollywood sleaze you cant help but like.
Image: Amazon

In the graphic novels of The Boys, The Legend was Billy Butcher’s source inside Vought American’s publishing empire, the guy who helped market the heroes through comics, and thus knows all the dirty secrets, and was pretty obviously modelled after Stan Lee. But The Boys as a TV show isn’t targeting comics in its satire, its going after the movies, hence all Vought heroes also being movie stars, so season three brought us The Legend as a Sleazy Hollywood Producer (based, it is said, on New Hollywood Era head of Paramount Robert Evans), and Paul Reiser slays it. He crushes every story of old-school Hollywood debauchery, his ongoing if not fully explained grudge with Butcher (doesn’t need much explaining, if you’ve met Butcher you probably have a beef with him), and his annoyance at having Soldier Boy back in his life. I hadn’t been sure The Legend was coming, but man he’s a value add to an ensemble firing on all cylinders.

Next Page: The New Kids

Best of Comic TV 2022: Let’s Begin!

Running a bit late this year because I really dragged my feet on the latest seasons of two shows I’ve claimed to like in the past and the debut season of a show I sure meant to watch, but we’re here, it’s time, let’s begin the 8th Annual Tales From Parts Unknown Comic Book TV Awards!

[Insert your preferred fanfare here]

The playing field surely is shifting. Marvel’s all in on Disney+, but needs to share the schedule with Star Wars, so they only manage a few shows per year… the biggest and most cohesive shared TV universe on television is putting the chairs on the tables and switching the lights off… and most other shows are on cancel-happy streaming services, so… who knows what next season will look like. This could be our last 20+ year. Guess we’ll find out.

Not included this year: I assume Riverdale is still living their best bonkers life, but it’s best we stay separate; I hear Walking Dead’s wrapping up, but isn’t there still at least one spinoff? Nah, hard pass.

And the cut-off is July, so while I am very aware that it took me so long to watch Locke and Key season two that season three dropped before I reached the halfway point, and that we’re already all talking about The Sandman, which I started watching before I was done at least one show on the list… the cut-off is the cut-off. If I wait to finish The Sandman and the third/final season of Locke and Key, She-Hulk will have started, Stargirl will be back, then what? So you wait until next summer, Sandman. Oh and don’t think I don’t see you there, Resident Alien. I love you, Resident Alien, but it wasn’t my idea for you to take a five month hiatus in the middle of the season. Was a time when shows that took that long a break admitted it was a new season afterwards.

And remember: no cartoons, he said, staring at What If and Diabolical. So with that said, here’s a rundown of what we’re covering this year:

Batwoman season 3
The Boys season 3
Doom Patrol season 3
The Flash season 8
Legends of Tomorrow seasons 6 & 7*
Locke and Key season 2
Lucifer season 6
Moon Knight
Ms. Marvel
Stargirl: Summer School (aka season 2)
Supergirl season 6
Superman and Lois season 2
Titans season 3
Umbrella Academy season 3
Y The Last Man

*Season six was COVID-delayed so long it didn’t end until last September, after last year’s cut-off, then was back in October, so we’re covering both. Seriously, the hiatus between seasons of Legends was shorter than most show’s winter break.

On with the technical awards!

Best Fights
Biggest Heartbreaks
Best Opening Titles
Best Musical Numbers
Best Stories

Next Page: Them’s Fightin’ Words

Multiverses? Madness!

When did multiverses become the new hotness?

I mean they’re not new. The idea of a multiverse, of nigh-infinite alternate Earths, dates back to Greece in the 3rd century BCE (that we know about), and in terms of pop culture goes back at minimum to that time the current Flash met the previous Flash.

Look it’s not the first or last time nostalgia said “Hey remember that thing from 20 years back, we should do that again”
Image: DC Comics

But all of a sudden multiverses are everywhere. The infinite possibilities of multiple worlds are popping up all over popular media. Sure they’ve been in comics for a minute and a half, but now they’re in movies and TV. The Flash brought the multiverse into the Arrowverse back in season two…

Love a good homage.
Image: Warner Bros.

…multiversal shenanigans are a big part of Marvel’s post-Endgame movie/TV plans, Rick and Morty is so tuned into alternate universes as an idea there’s an entire episode with dozens of characters who are either Rick or Morty. How long will it last? Probably until the day before Jerry O’Connell announces he’s signed a deal for a Sliders revival.

Come on you know he’s gotta be at least considering it.

But like the multiverse offers many possible variations on the world we know, the narrative concept of the multiverse can be used for many, many purposes. Some good, some interesting, others… less so.

So what I’d like to do today is look at a few properties using the multiverse as a storytelling tool and what they’re using it for, and along the way, who’s doing it best.

Starting with who’s doing it worst.

Next page: multiversing irresponsibly

Boba and the Peacemaker

(Inevitable spoilers ahead for Book of Boba Fett, Peacemaker, and The Suicide Squad, but I’ll try to keep it minimal)

Two shows hit streaming in late 2021/early 2022. Both took (mostly) the weekly release strategy. Both–no, no, I did this “How many parallels can I find” schtick with Supergirl and Lucifer and I absolutely stretched it a little… and the shows are in the title… okay so let’s just get started.

Image: Disney

A week before Christmas 2020, Disney+ wrapped their second season of hit series The Mandalorian by teasing that instead of/prior to season three, they were launching a new show, The Book of Boba Fett, after having Temura Morrison turn up throughout the season as a surprisingly not eaten-by-Sarlacc Boba Fett. Because that’s how season two of Mandalorian rolled: Din Djarin/Mando and his little buddy Baby Yoda/Grogu going from recognizable character* to recognizable character picking up sub-quests until he was ready to form a squad to take on Moff Gideon.

*I mean… recognizable if you watched Clone Wars and/or Rebels.

Boba Fett’s been a fan favourite character for decades, because… um… let me check my notes… because he had a sweet action figure back in the 80s. He was such a favourite that a Boba Fett movie was one of the earliest movies Disney was pitching when they bought Lucasfilm. Then Solo disappointed at the box office and the whole “cinematic Star War every year” plan got rethought. But despite basically making a better version of a Boba Fett show with Mandalorian (a new character having new adventures in basically the same badass suit), they circled back to it with Book of Boba Fett. Seven episodes devoted to everyone’s favourite featured extra from The Empire Strikes Back, spinning off from The Mandalorian and moving into the palace from the opening sequence of Return of the Jedi to become a crime boss. I certainly see the logic behind this series. It’s extremely cynical logic, based on how to exploit an IP more than “we have a story that needs telling,” but that seems to be Star Wars these days. Thanks again for that to the toxic wastes of time that pitched a tantrum after Last Jedi and scared Disney away from trying to innovate.

End result… it’s fine. Basically mostly fine. Some issues we’ll be unpacking later, as you must have suspected. But let’s rip off this Band-Aid… I don’t know why it’s called The Book of Boba Fett. There is no book. No implications of a book. Could have been The Ballad of Boba Fett, all I’m saying.

And in this corner…

Image: Warner Bros.

As the Snyder Cult loved to complain, nobody really asked for Peacemaker. But how could we. It’s a show spinning off a character from a movie that, when the show was announced, hadn’t come out yet. Mad genius James Gunn, stuck in the same quarantine and dealing with the same anxiety as the rest of us, hammered out an eight-episode series for one of the characters of his upcoming The Suicide Squad. Actually three characters, one of the squad and two members of their tech support team. Not the ones cued up to be audience favourites. Not Harley Quinn or Bloodsport or Ratcatcher II. John Cena’s peace-loving mass-murderer, Peacemaker.

And yeah, Cena’s good in The Suicide Squad, he’s a fun character, right up until the moment he isn’t, at which point he transitions to being one of the most hateable characters in the movie. Not the most. That’s General Suarez. Maybe Presidente Luna. Actually Amanda Waller’s not here to make friends either, and the Thinker… okay he’s somewhere between third and fifth most– Blackguard, right, screw that guy– third and sixth?

Anyway he wasn’t exactly primed to be the first cast member we’d want to see next, but Gunn clearly had an idea he liked, and set about to take this character we’d been booing and dig into why he is like he is, what made him into this, and make us feel bad for him. Make us like him, root for him, want him to succeed… partially because if he doesn’t succeed, humanity is pretty screwed.

All this with Gunn’s blend of laugh-out-loud humour, fun characters with strong arcs, and some truly, unexpectedly, gutting emotional moments. Peacemaker started from nearly the opposite position as Book of Boba Fett, but found everything the other show was lacking.

So I wanna do a compare/contrast: look at the reasons that Book of Boba Fett was basically okay but hard to recommend, and what Peacemaker did differently to wind up an incredible ride and the most-watched streaming show in the world while Boba Fett was still happening.

To begin with, the protagonists.

It’s 2022, and THESE are the Best Pictures?

It’s that time again! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has named their shortlist of what they consider the top movies of 2021, and once again, it feels like a list that doesn’t match either what the general audiences consider the year’s best, nor what critics looking for novelty or artistry consider the year’s best. Well, some of them. Some of the latter have made the shortlist through sheer power of critical love, some through mounting award buzz, some because what are they gonna do, not nominate Spielberg? That’s crazy talk.

Actually that brings us to a sad fact about the Oscars, a tale told in two records set this year. Steven Spielberg became the first person to be nominated for Best Director in six different decades. Jane Campion became the first woman to be nominated for Best Director twice.

Nothing against Steven, man’s a legend, but… marinate in that a minute.


Anyhoo before we get to the rankings…

Should they have nominated Spider-Man: No Way Home?


Look I liked it a lot in theatres. I wasn’t compelled to watch it a second time, especially not if it meant dancing with Omicron. It’s good Spider-Man. But it’s good because it’s good at delivering fan service. It managed to hit us with two hours of fan service moments while still telling a story that made sense and was about the current, reigning Spider-Man. Like Day of the Doctor homaged 50 years of Doctor Who while still being primarily about 11 and Clara. That’s fun to watch, but that’s not enough for an Oscar, you know? And as a friend pointed out, yes, Oscar Bait has become such a precise science that there is such a thing as fan service for Oscar voters, looking at you The King’s Speech, but I want “He sure was a great man from history, let’s not unpack his flaws much” to stop getting Oscar love, rather than “He’s from the other movies!” to start so that it’s fair. Ghostbusters: Afterlife also had reams of fan service that didn’t stop it from telling its own story, you don’t hear me whining it was snubbed. I know the deal.

And yes, it made insane money, even if we weren’t still in a pandemic. It made huge bank, first movie since Rise of Skywalker to do so. But come on, peeps. Is that relevant. There was a time when earning more money than any other movie made the Academy think “Well it must be doing something right,” but that time essentially ended with ET: The Extra Terrestrial. Sure there’ve been outliers, but overall, being the box office champ only gets you a Best Picture nomination if you’re Lord of the Rings good or directed by James Cameron.

So no. No I don’t think Spider-Man: No Way Home particularly deserved a nod, even if there are some real questionable choices this year (as always), even if the Academy does need to open its minds to the possibility that popcorn movies can be good and legit classics (justice for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chariots of Fire my entire ass), even if they required there to be ten nominees, the first time that’s happened in 11 years, seemingly for the express purpose of sneaking in a hit so that maybe the ratings would pull out of their death spiral.

I mean they did nominate a big tentpole flick, but… it’s probably not the People’s Champ they’d hoped for.

That said, as we rank this year’s picks, we will chat about movies that maybe should have made the list.

Let’s begin!

Next Page: The part where I’m extra sassy

Pop Culture 2021: A Review

So with the prior year wrapped up, various critic groups are releasing their best-of lists, and it feels like they’re getting more attention than usual, because the Second Annual Plague-Time Oscar nominations are months away, and the Golden Globes got busted so hard for being too white they’re not even getting televised this year so honestly why do we care. The LA Critics Association gave out awards and the internet’s AV Club named their top 25, and both seemed to learn the lesson of Parasite, as the top film for the former comes from Japan, and far more of the latter’s list came from outside the US than in.

And god damn I don’t want to watch most of it.

Listen to this fucking description for Days, number 24 on the AV Club’s list: “What passes for a plot is mostly mundane activity, the dialogue reduced to an unscripted, un-subtitled minimum. Yet those who can adjust their attention span to Tsai’s demands on it will discover a film fluent in the loneliness so many have endured these past couple years.” Fuck you. I know it’s been lonely since that first lockdown, I have lived that, and with (for my region) a fifth lockdown on the horizon, I don’t need to watch a slow, intentionally dull film about how one erotic encounter breaks up the monotony of an empty existence to know that plague times are emotionally taxing. If one thing goes wrong at work, I go into an emotional spiral for hours, because life in 2021 does not provide enough joy to cushion a difficult work moment.

Let me turn the mic over to this TikTok about Spider-Man: No Way Home being a huge hit and Ridley Scott’s apparently excellent Last Duel not to explain the issue here.


#stitch with @indigodetry i told yallll #spiderman #marvel #comicbook #film @navthepoet @straw_hat_goofy

♬ original sound – Kiki From the PNW

I have seen, at time of writing, two films from the AV Club’s list (The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story, which I’m sure we’ll talk about it when I rank Oscar nominees), actively want to see one other (The French Dispatch of The Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun), and would be okay seeing four others (including, yes, the one that features sex with cars, Bumblebee crawled so that Titane could run), but…

I would trade the entire list and every remaining Golden Globe nominee for a second season of Hawkeye. And Hawkeye isn’t perfect, it has too many plot threads for six episodes to tie up in a satisfying way, but it surely was a fun ride. Whereas Oscar Season 2020 was nothing but tough hangs, so nobody can be blamed for not rushing to check out Oscar Season 2021.

So instead, let’s talk nerd stuff.

Several pop culture franchises made some big flexes in 2021, and not all of them necessarily worked, but a lot of them point to some issues facing the entertainment industry right now I want to talk about, so let’s talk about them. I, a sometimes regionally notable playwright who works in a hotel, will break down the biggest problems facing the world’s largest media conglomerates, why not.

And maybe touch on why I liked Hawkeye, we’ll see.

First off, how’s Marvel doing?