Man, I really need to watch Succession, huh? 2019 was the end of the decade and it felt like it everything I loved had to end with it. In the last year, I said goodbye to the likes of Steven Universe, Broad City, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Catastrophe, Veep, Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, The Tick, Jessica Jones (and all Marvel Netflix), Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Legion, Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, Silicon Valley, and Mr. Robot. That list doesn’t even include shows that are returning for brief final stretches this year, like Bojack Horseman and The Good Place. So yeah, that Succession is looking pretty good.
The year that was 2019 felt excruciatingly long and full of terrors. Yet, somehow, the end of the year really snuck up on me. Usually, as the year goes on, I keep a list of albums I’ve liked and need to revisit, then actually do that starting around November. Unfortunately, some real life distractions and my own focus on getting my best of the decade lists in order resulted in me never getting around to a proper list-making process this year. So this is about as far from a “best of 2019” list as I’ve ever done, really it’s just the 10 albums I’ve listened to the most. I’m even going to forgo honorable mentions, because my list of those right now is about 40 albums.
I had a lot of options when it came to picking a movie to close out this year’s festivities. I could have done what I usually do and review a bad movie from this year (Serenity was a front-runner, as were two movies I’ve actually seen, Dark Phoenix and Men in Black: International) but this isn’t just any Shocktober, this is the Decade of Death! In honor of the work we put in this month, I decided I wanted to review a bad movie that represented the darkest, bleakest aspects of the 2010s as a whole. Something so horrible only those who lived through this decade would remember it. So what were the bad directions cinema went in over the past 10 years? Well, there were the unnecessary franchise films, so I could have watched something like Dumb and Dumber To. There was the collapse of theatrical comedies, so I could have watched something like Grown Ups. Then there was “cancel culture” and the backlash to it, so I could have watched something unsavory or truly deplorable but quickly decided that was a bad idea.
One film exists in the crossroads of these terrible trends. A brazen, foolish attempt to simultaneously cash in on the goodwill generated by one decaying franchise and the tiniest opportunity of another. A comedy so painfully unfunny that even watching it on Hulu, I still wanted to find a way to get my money back. A film starring a person who was already creatively burnt out and would go on to reveal himself to be so problematic that I remember hearing an audible groan in the audience when he appeared in another movie just a year after this one. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mortdecai.
Looking over the scores on our individual scores on Herditary‘s Letterboxd page, it appears I liked it the most out of the Mildly Pleased crew. Contributor Michael Sevigny gave it the lowest score of all of us and went on to say in his Midsommar entry “Ari Aster’s filmmaking is anathema to me.” Harsh, dude. Why is it that our biggest cinephile was coldest on the film, while our least film-savvy writer (me) liked it the most? I could have just asked, but let’s guess instead.
Does it make me a basic bitch if I need to engage with a film on its most literal level to enjoy it? Or, to take a step back, is it fair that I need to enjoy a film to like it? The Killing of a Sacred Deer clearly has a lot going on that thoughtful critics can engage with: complicated social criticism, obscure references, deep themes, and deliberate deconstruction of cinematic tropes. But it’s also, for me, a movie that pushes director Yorgos Lanthimos’ stoic style too far. When I hear the phrase “it’s not for everyone,” I always think “I’m not everyone, it must be for me.” But in this case, a deliberately off-putting movie made me too uncomfortable to really like it. And I think that may be my problem, not the movie’s.
Train to Busan begins with a disturbing image that I wish the movie explored more. A farmer drives his truck into a quarantine zone and becomes distracted trying to reach his vibrating phone in the passenger seat. While his eyes are off the road, he runs over a deer. The farmer gets out, inspects his vehicle for damage, then resumes his journey. But the camera lingers in place and the dead animal suddenly lurches back to life. This begs so many questions, like what animals are infected? Do they only want to eat their own kind or will they attack anything they see? Unfortunately, Train to Busan is not the zombanimals movie I’ve been waiting for. It is, however, one of the most fun zombie movies I’ve seen in a while.
Green Room represents exactly the things that have created my general resistance(?) to horror movies and why I’ve still seen so many of them. Green Room is a thrilling movie and on paper I like lots of movies that are exciting… but most of those are action movies. Here, the intensity is in service of creating dire situations that you have to hope you’ll never face in real life. You could go as far as to describe them as miserable. And yet, the movie is smartly made with fully-realized characters, beautiful imagery, and all the other film criticism cliches. It adds up to an all-too-familiar picture: a movie I respect a helluva lot more than I like.