Saturday, January 04, 2020

Top Movies of the Decade

It's interesting to go back and look at my top ten lists for the past decade, and see where I would have changed things, shifted the order, even had a film drop out and another take its place. I've looked at the movies I've watched over the past decade and chosen the ones that stick with me the most after they've come and gone, and just like my yearly top tens, I suspect this is a fluid list, subject to change depending on my mood and the time of day.

1. A Separation

I remember walking out of the theatre wondering how this Iranian film would be topped. Clearly, the answer was it wouldn't. The dissolution of a family was portrayed with great intensity and intelligence in Baumbach's Marriage Story, but as good as that film was, this was the movie that set that bar at an unreachable height.

2. The Florida Project

In a lesser filmmaker's hands this would have been the cinematic version of poverty porn, but instead we are treated to moments of joy and love to very much equal the heartache and pain of the lives of the characters. And the ending, filmed surreptitiously with an iPhone, is a moment of transcendence.

3. Moonlight

A heartbreaking and heartfelt tale of a love and growth, this is the sort of film to make you realize you can understand and empathize with someone else, even if almost every aspect of that person's life is foreign to your own.

4. Roma

Gorgeous, a deliberate pace, offering up its revelations and answers bit by bit, and with some of the most glorious long shots I've seen in many years.

5. Shoplifters

A story of loveable and loving petty thieves, who know family is what you make it, and even more important, know when family is not working for others who need it.

6. Parasite

It strikes me as I see this side by side with my 5th choice that this and Shoplifters are of a piece, about family and doing whatever you can to survive. There is a different sort of tragedy here than in the Japanese film, permanent of a different nature and more shocking, accompanied by great humour.

7. Spotlight

One of those movies that, as my wife noted when it ended, feels like old times. A serious film about a serious subject, great tension even as we know how things in this true story pan out.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

There was some good science fiction these past ten years and, speaking as a science fiction and fantasy author, some mediocre and shitty SF as well. This one stood head and shoulders and maybe even elbows above them all. Audacious and witty and thrilling and imaginative, a movie where the title character isn't even close to the main character.

9. Paterson

Almost nothing happens, the one time a gun fires it proves to be something else, Adam Driver's wife is a special kind of strange and you can see he adores her and wants her to be whoever she wants to be, even as he continues to drive a bus in order to write his poetry. Delightful.

10. You Were Never Really Here

Watching moments of violence play out via black and white security cameras in silence in the corner of the screen, seeing Joaquin Phoenix as a somewhat-overweight schlub who cares so very deeply,  and now we sit and wait and wonder when Lynne Ramsay will be allowed to make her next movie.

Also-rans: Boyhood, Arrival, The Irishman, Little Women, Tree of Life, The Way Way Back, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Get Out.


Monday, December 30, 2019

The Movies of 2019

I watched 95 feature-length movies this past year, and saw 39 of those in the theatre, as indicated by an asterisk (*) before the name of the film. I also saw 16 shorts, 12 of those on the big screen (at a film fest). My top ten, accompanied by a whole load of Almosts, follows at the end of this.

I also managed to see movies from 20 different countries (although Canada was only short films this year), which is a record for me:

New Zealand
South Korea

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018) USA - An excellent Netflix documentary about a once-famous Polish artist and sculptor who was mostly forgotten for the last 40 years of his life, rediscovered by underground comix creators living near him in California in the 1970s. It takes some wild turns, opening up a story that will leave you with your mouth hanging open many times.

Darkest Hour (2017) UK - A decent movie, and I can see why Gary Oldman received his Oscar. That said, as with so many biopics, if often felt very piecemeal. The one good part about that is at least it was limited in the scope of time it took in.

Paddington 2 (2018) UK - So delightful, and I can’t believe I put it off this long. And yes, Hugh Grant really does deserve all the accolades.

Dealt (2017) USA - An interesting doc about Richard Turner, a card mechanic - magician - who is totally blind. More interesting for the sheer pigheadedness he demonstrates, and the patience his family offers in return.

12 Strong (2018) USA - A serviceable film, yet another based-on-a-true-story film about the Afghan war. Helped by a good cast in some cases, but some of that good cast is sorely underused.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) USA - A clever thriller/mystery, quite violent, although not as over-the-top as a Tarantino movie would have been, which I’ve heard it compared to. Great cast, lots of excellent surprises all the way through.

Three Identical Strangers (2018) USA - A very interesting documentary that takes some dark turns. We had some issues with questions left hanging at the end as regarding the fate of one of the subjects, and I hesitate to say more because it’s worth seeing without spoilers, even now.

*The Favourite (2018) UK - Wild and brilliant and so very well acted. Often somewhat Gilliam-esque, I found, with some wild camera angles and lens choices. As well, the movie was shot on 35mm film with only natural light, including in many cases only candles, very much like Kubrick did with Barry Lyndon. It’s astonishing to look at.

Brexit (2019) UK - Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in this docudrama retelling of how the Leave campaign won. An original on HBO, it’s another very good political retelling.

*They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) NZ - An absolutely outstanding documentary about WW1, film from the day cleaned up and timed right and colourized, all narrated by soldiers who had been interviewed for the Imperial War Museum. Gorgeous.

The Catcher Was a Spy (2018) USA - An okay thriller that takes a number of liberties with the facts and puts the thrilling parts in kinda the wrong part of the film.

Close (2019) UK - A good thriller that takes the expected gender roles and flips them nicely, including one character being fridged. It’s hard-nosed, the fights not easy for star Noomi Rapace, but it does stumble a bit when it tries to delve into the personal lives of its main characters.

*Shoplifters (2018) Japan - A wonderful film about what it means to be a family, and how it doesn’t have to be blood that ties us together and makes us look out for each other. Surely would have been in my top ten last year and stands a good chance for this year.

*Cold Pursuit (2019) USA - A darkly funny revenge thriller that is a remake, directed by the same guy who did the Scandinavian original, In Order of Disappearance. A couple of Coen brothers nods are here, one very good, the other quite over-the-top. Worth seeing.

High Flying Bird (2019) USA - I’m not a big basketball fan, but Steven Soderbergh’s film about the politics of players and ownership was excellent. Soderbergh shot this entire movie on iPhone, and aside from a few specific lighting issues the phone’s camera seems to have it looking good.

The Breaker Upperers (2018) New Zealand - One very funny movie that goes far beyond passing the Bechdel Test. It’s written and directed by the stars, two very funny women who also do a great job of depicting a great friendship.

*If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) USA - Remarkable camera work here, very affectionate and deeply personal. This would have been in my top ten for 2018 if it had made it to town before year end.

Minding the Gap (2019) USA - A moving, devastating, and in the end uplifting documentary. It starts seeming like it will be about skater kids and quickly turns into a deep dive into broken lives, domestic abuse, and strength and love. Oscar-nominated. 

A Star is Born (2018) USA - It does live up to its hype, and I’m disappointed I didn’t see it in the theatre. Some excellent performances, the music is excellent, the love story both moving and devastating.

Behind the Curve (2018) USA - An unsurprisingly irritating documentary about Flat Earthers.

Free Solo (2018) USA - I had to cure my own fear of heights by, believe it or not, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. his movie came close to bringing back that fear. An astonishing tale of obsession.

*Captain Marvel (2019) USA - This was much better than I thought it would be. A great answer to Captain America fighting the fascists overseas, in that this one is Captain Marvel fighting the fascists at home. Fun without being silly, and a thrilling statement I think a lot of unaware critics missed the point on.

Apollo 11 (2019) USA - A stunningly good documentary, full of footage hidden away for decades, and edited so deftly it surely deserves an Oscar nomination. I was on the edge of my seat, even though of course I knew what was coming next.

Triple Frontier (2019) USA - Famously took its time getting made, with all sorts of stars attached before backing out, and when you hear those stories you worry about the final product. But it isn’t bad, actually. A good cast, some genuine tension (especially with the helicopter), and a more nuanced treatment of soldiers than so many of the recent rah-rah military films.

Searching (2018) USA - Surprisingly effective and even emotional (although my wife would disagree, as she felt there was too much disconnection). Really, though, it should have been marketed as a horror for parents of teens and tweens.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) USA - A fine and fun and heartfelt sequel, but there isn’t too much else I can say about it.

A Private War (2018) UK - Good movie, good performance, but I’m beginning to feel like Rosamund Pike is usually trying just a little too hard. Interesting to look back at this and think on how understated Stanley Tucci was in his much smaller role.

*Us (2019) USA - For such a genuinely silly idea, this sure does nail it. Freaky and spooky and tense and some great performances, especially (of course) Lupita Nyong’o.

I Am Richard Pryor (2019) USA - A bog-standard talking head documentary, interspersed with some archival footage, that nonetheless is enjoyable because of its subject.

Green Book (2018) USA - I avoided seeing this on the big screen and honestly could have given it a miss at home. Surprising how I could feel disappointed watching a movie I expected to disappoint me.

*Shazam (2019) USA - Great fun. Leaned in heavy on the delightful silliness of the comic, and yet carried a nice emotional heft. 

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018) USA - I’ve been a fan of photographer Edward Burtynsky for years now, and this movie perfectly translates his work to film. Stunning and disturbing.

Border (Gräns) (2018) Sweden - I see filmmaker John Waters added this to his top ten of the year, and if you know John Waters and his work that should tell you plenty. A seriously messed-up film that deserves your attention.

*Avengers: Endgame (2019) USA - Lots of bang, lots of noise, lots of fun, a good job of making you care about the characters. But it’ll take a lot more than that to convince me we should be getting these movies as often as we do.

Leave No Trace (2018) USA - Ben Foster, like Joel Edgerton, is quietly turning out some quality work that not enough people are aware of. An excellent, quiet film, with powerful performances by Foster and by Thomasin McKenzie.

Cold War (2018) Poland - Maybe not the same heights as the filmmaker’s last movie, Ida, but still gorgeous and glorious.

Last Breath (2019) UK - A tense and intense documentary, although I will admit the subject matter feeds on a deep and almost pathological fear of mine, so it really had me on the edge of my seat.

*John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) USA - The incessant violence is of no interest to my wife, and I don’t blame her, but this was still an excellent addition to a riveting series.

Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much (2017) USA - A fascinating look at obsession of a different type, about a wannabe game show contestant.

Equalizer 2 (2018) USA - If the first one was a fun and more violent, adult-rated version of Home Alone, this one was mostly just an admission that some creators are not interested in treading new and interesting ground.

Venom (2018) USA - Oddly better than I expected, especially when viewed through the lens of a deeply bizarre friendship. Even love.

Stan & Ollie (2019) UK - I’m not a big fan of biopics, but films that take a closer look at one segment of the lives of people are more interesting to me. This handled that well, and the performances are outstanding.

Rim of the World (2019) USA - A fun alien invasion film where the heroes are teens. Not quite at the level of Attack the Block, but it deserved more attention for sure.

*Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) USA - Woof. What a mess.

*Late Night (2019) USA - A significant lack of realism only briefly disengaged me from some great characters and interactions.

I Am Mother (2019) Australia - A decent post-apocalyptic science fiction film, tightly focused.

*Yesterday (2019) UK - Enjoyable with a lovely ending, but on the second-best film of the year based on the rock music of my youth.

*Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) USA - Another tremendous MCU film with an ending that had me practically squealing with delight.

*Midsommar (2019) USA - There are some great moments, and some hilarious moments, but sometimes the humour might not have been intended. Much too long, and that’s without having seen the longer director’s cut. I did like it, though, even if it sounds like I’m complaining. Swinging for the fences gets you my appreciation whether or not it all works.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) UK - The sort of biopic I tend not to care about. Some good performances, but by no means an Oscar-worthy film.

*The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) USA - Perhaps the most beautifully-shot film I saw this year, wit an emotion heft we so rarely see. 

Burning (2018) South Korea - Like almost all South Korean movies, this goes places films from other places would not dare to. A dark and effective psychological thriller. 

*Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) USA - Another alternate history from Tarantino, a tremendous film. The only question I have is how many people are going to understand that Pitt’s character is an unreliable narrator, considering his charm and looks?

*Blinded By the Light (2019) UK - The best rock and roll film of the year. Great fun, great musical moments.

*It Chapter Two (2019) USA - Almost but not quite the biggest disappointment for me, especially considering how much I enjoyed the first one.

*The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) USA - This movie was a delight, and seeing so many mentally handicapped people in the theatre reminded me just how much representation matters.

*Tigers Are Not Afraid AKA Vuelven (2019/17) Mexico - Dark and unsettling story about homeless children trying to get by after drug wars have taken so much from them. Turns into possibly a ghost story, possibly a Mexican version of Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Biggest Little Farm (2019) USA - A fun documentary about the trials of starting up an organic farm in spite of knowing next to nothing about farming. Beautiful cinematography. 

*Official Secrets (2019) UK - Gripping true story about a whistleblower within Britain’s intelligence network, with some terrific acting. 

*Monos (2019) Columbia - Young people left to their own to guard a hostage for terrorist/freedom fighter group. What could go wrong? Turns out, lots. A very good film.

Booksmart (2019) USA - The hardest I laughed this year. We watched at home and probably should have had the subtitles on so my wife could understand what was happening. So many wonderfully-realized characters, solidly feminist, just all around a winner. 

Furie (2019) Vietnam - A decent, although not great martial arts movie with a female lead. Worth seeing, though.

Arctic (2019) Iceland - Like Redford in All Is Lost, Mads Mikkelsen says an awful lot with very few words. Riveting.

Toy Story 4 (2019) USA - I don’t know how they keep managing it, but Pixar’s sequels in this series have all been quality, and this one is the same. Not quite the heights reached earlier, but still excellent.

The Laundromat (2019) USA - Probably minor Soderbergh, but still very good with a great cast. Didn’t speak to me quite as strongly as The Big Short did, although still a valuable lesson on film.

*Ad Astra (2019) USA - Probably the angriest I was watching a movie this year. It was gorgeous to look at, but aside from the absolute science stupidity, so much of it felt like it had been plotted by a ten-year-old. 

In the Tall Grass (2019) USA - An all right adaptation of a story by Stephen King and Joe Hill, with some genuine tension, but it only rarely pulled me in deep.

In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) USA - A science fiction time travel cop thriller with a really cool twist towards the end. Workmanlike otherwise.

*Häxan (1922) Denmark -  A sorta documentary from back in the silent film era, accompanied by live music, which all makes for a remarkable evening at the movies. For the year this was very dark indeed.

Capernaum (2018) Lebanon - A devastating portrait of refugees in Lebanon, acted by real refugees. Would have been one of my top films of 2018 if it had made it here that year.

*Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) USA - Better than I anticipated, and a nice touch making it so female-centric. Not a classic but a nice step up from the last one.

Tell Me Who I Am (UK) 2019 - A documentary about one twin with memory loss from an accident being taught his history by his other twin, with a banger of a shock near the end.

Wild Rose (UK) 2018 - Terrific movie about a country singer in Scotland, about her attitude and her legal problems, and while it follows a fairly standard redemption path it’s worth watching for that joyful turn and for some great music, including a song co-written by Mary Steenburgen.

The King (2019) UK - Less historical drama and more one that plays with Shakespeare’s works, Joel Edgerton wrote this and has a fine supporting role. Some outstanding battle scenes to boot.

*Jojo Rabbit (2019) New Zealand - Hilarious right up until the gut punch reminding you where and when this takes place. I can’t imagine anyone other than Taika Waititi pulling this off, and he does it so well. Bonus points for really dragging out the “Heil Hitler” scene. 

*Parasite (2019) South Korea - Easy choice for my favourite movie of the year. A tremendous thriller about class, family, and poverty. Not a misstep in the whole thing.

*Doctor Sleep (2019) USA - A decent adaptation of the Stephen King book, a sequel to The Shining that manages to straddle both the book and the original Kubrick movie. I really appreciated the director using actual actors to take on the roles of the original actors. 

A Vigilante (2019) USA - This was a remarkable movie, disappointing that it had no traction on release and showed up on streaming with no fanfare at all. Strong feminist story, and if it weren’t for the dumb thing she said after the latest Clint Eastwood movie was released I would have said between this and Booksmart 2019 should have really been Olivia Wilde’s year.

Dolemite is My Name (2019) USA - Eddie Murphy is fantastic in this, and the story is a delight.

*Extra Ordinary (2019) Ireland - A movie about a woman who doesn’t want to use her special talent to help get rid of unwanted ghosts, but falls into it anyhow. One of other finest comedies of the year, and Barry Ward puts in not just one of the best comedic performances of the year, but possibly of the decade. Seriously, he works some magic with his role. 

*Daniel Isn’t Real (2019) USA - A darker version of the memorably mediocre movie Drop Dead Fred, about an imaginary friend (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son). Okay, with a nice twist near the end, but only middling.

*The Vast of Night (2019) USA - A first movie, made on a shoestring, and stunningly gorgeous. There are a couple of jaw-dropping long tracking shots and a great sense of mystery. Well worth seeking out.

*Jallikattu (2019) India - A film about masculinity and violence, filled with stunning imagery, but perhaps a bit too loud and frantic.

*The Wretched (2019) USA -  A decent horror movie about a witch who kills people and then lives inside their skin, and the boy next door who realizes what’s wrong and tries to fight back.

*The Irishman (2019) USA - Forget the issues with the digital de-ageing, which only took me out of it for a few minutes at the very beginning. The acting is remarkable, especially by Joe Pesci, and three and a half hours flowed by without catching me up at all.

Atlantique (2019) Senegal - A beautiful story of love and loss and greed that turns, surprisingly, into a very different type of ghost story.

*Knives Out (2019) USA - A great murder mystery with twists and turns and tremendous performances from an all-star cast. Fun.

*Dark Waters (2019) USA - A darker, male-centred Erin Brockovich, based on the true story of a lawyer who takes up the cause against DuPont and the damage done by their production of Teflon. If anyone would challenge Joe Pesci for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, my hope is it would be Bill Camp, who is incredible in this.

The Guilty (2018) Denmark - A good Danish thriller that takes place entirely in an emergency call centre. We learn more about the cop taking the calls as the movie goes on, as well as the person he is trying to save, and the final multiple reveals don’t feel like a cheat.

*Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019) USA - I saw it, I don’t mind I saw it, I hope I won’t have to see another for a good long spell. I understand why some people are upset about Rose being sidelined, but I am old and cranky and had trouble caring even when the original characters were on-screen.

The Aeronauts (2019) UK - An exciting action movie about flying a balloon in 1862, kind of based on a true story (from the excellent book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air) although with Felicity Jones inserted as a female balloon pilot instead of who flew with Eddie Redmayne’s character instead. The aerial photography and stunts were incredible, and it was originally to be released on IMAX, which I am sorry never happened.

Marriage Story (2019) USA - Certain Oscar nominations for ScarJo and for Adam Driver. Hard to watch when you’ve been from a divorce, but I managed to get through it and am so glad I did. For a movie so disturbing and upsetting it ends on a lovely high, if bittersweet, note.

*Little Women (2019) USA - Glorious and joyful, even as it is accompanied by tragedy. I wanted to watch it again right away.

I Lost My Body (2019) France - The story of a severed hand making its way across Paris to reconnect with its owner, this animated film has a real emotional heft and strong symbolism. Best animated feature of the year, but not for children.

The Report (2019) USA - Adam Driver again, who was everywhere in the last few weeks of the year, as the man who brought the CIA’s torture program to light in an obsessive, Herculean effort that took many years. Annette Benning plays an uncanny likeness of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Short Films

If I could find a link I supplied it, since short films are often more difficult to track down.

Period. End of Sentence. (2019) USA - An excellent documentary short that won the Oscar, about menstrual rights and activism in India. Ntflix

Anima (2019)  UK (15 minutes) - Thom Yorke of Radiohead doing a lengthy music/dance video, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Excellent. Netflix.

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (2019) USA (32 minutes) - An okay spoof/mockumentary starring David Harbour, and while it goes over the top too many times, I do realize that was the point. Netflix.

*Make Me a Sandwich (2019) Canada (3 minutes) - A clever short horror about domestic strife.

*The Video Store Commercial (2019) Canada (4 minutes) - An actual commercial for a real video store in Calgary, and it was glorious.

*In Sound, We Live Forever (2019) USA (12 minutes) - A nice horror/thriller piece in which most of what happens is background or in the past, sound jammed up against peaceful yet increasingly ominous visuals.

*Bedtime Story (2019) Spain (9 minutes) - About a witch watching a family from an apartment across the way. Suitably creepy.

*Fears (2019) Spain (5 minutes) - A creepy monster-in-the-closet story accompanied by an overly obvious ending.

*The Boogeywoman (2019) USA (18 minutes) - A horror about a young woman’s first period. The first half, in a roller rink, is much more effective than the second half when she is wandering the deserted city streets. (Trailer only.)

*Changeling (2019) UK (9 minutes) - A very creepy story about a new mother and the transformation on her baby. (Trailer only.)

*The Hitchhiker (2019) Australia (13 minutes) - A great short film about vampires, terminal illness, and friendship.

*Re-home (2019) USA (8 minutes) - Clever conceit, about re-homing loved ones like pets because of the skyrocketing cost of living. (Trailer only.)

*Lili (2019) Netherlands (8 minutes) - A screen test, #MeToo, and how it all goes wrong for one man. (Trailer only.)

*A Noise That Carries (1019) Canada (15 minutes) - I worry that what was meant to be a scary part just ended up feeling silly, because I’m pretty sure our laughs came when they weren’t intended.

*Girl in the Hallway (2019) Canada (10 minutes) - I would rank this as one of my top ten if it was feature length. As it is, a devastating must-watch.

My Grandfather’s Memory Book (2018) USA (5 minutes) - A lovely animated short by a Pixar animator about his grandfather’s drawings about his life. 

I had more trouble narrowing the list down to a top ten for the year, at least after the first three. But here goes:

1. Parasite
2. The Irishman
3. Little Women
4. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
5. Knives Out
6. Us
7. Jojo Rabbit
8. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
9. Atlantique
10. (Tie) Dolemite is My Name/Marriage Story

Movies that on another day might have forced their way onto this list are Border, Blinded By the Light, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Monos, Official Secrets, Booksmart, A Vigilante, The Vast of Night, Dark Waters, I Lost My Body, The Report, Paddington 2, The Favourite, They Shall Not Grow Old, Shoplifters, If Beale Street Could Talk, Minding the Gap, Free Solo, Apollo 11, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, Leave No Trace, Cold War, Burning, The Biggest Little Farm, Arctic, Toy Story 4, Wild Rose, The King, Extra Ordinary, and Capernaum. Several of these were 2018 films, which is why I kept them off the top ten.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

This Mess With ChiZine

My novel Napier's Bones was published a number of years ago by ChiZine. It sold well, and I saw a decent amount of money from it, for a small press. Like lots of other authors, apparently, I often had to go digging for that money, and I did bring it up with two other authors over time. Once in person at a convention, and that was greeted with a shrug, a "Whaddaya gonna do?" The second time was via email, and I was told they were having the same problem.

But I would push, and get a response, and eventually see the money. Or at least some of the money. But every time a promise was made, that promise was broken, and I would have to push again.

I realize now I should have yanked the book. I had considered doing so a couple of times, but in both instances money arrived and I let the thought fade away.

I live a different life than a lot of other authors. I work a full-time blue collar job, my wife has an excellent academic career, and we have two adult sons, one we just finished putting through university, the other in his 3rd year. We are not wealthy, but we do just fine, thank you. Starving artist I ain't.

I also spent two or three years seriously considering giving up on this writing biz altogether. Frustration, not just with ChiZine but also with certain other people and groups had conspired to leave me exhausted and disinterested. Time spent as the Canadian Regional Director and then publicity director for SFWA and newsletter editor and then president of SF Canada soured me on groups and groupthink, I stopped attending conventions, dropped a whole shitload of Facebook friends and contacts (many of them have sought me out afterward, and that's just fine).

All this is to explain I had no contact with the "whisper network," did not even know such a network existed.

I need to tell you something else. Before we each got married to our respective spouses, many years ago, Sandra from ChiZine and I had a brief romantic relationship, although mostly long distance. It didn't end badly, it just... ended. My view of this may therefore be considered by some to be skewed, and that's fair.

So I'm not going to badmouth people for things I did not witness, and I'm not going to share stories about anything I did experience, because I don't think they are important to this situation. I will note however that there are many editors and publishers and authors who fall into the category of asshole, and if that was all this was there really wouldn't be anything there.

But it isn't, and aside from my own issues, I believe the people who have come forward. And it breaks my damn heart to see people I knew and liked back in the day having been put through so much.

I also frustrates me - not, I should note, to the level of being pissed off, since we all deal with these traumas in our own way - that I didn't know. That none of these people ever thought to mention any of this to me, or that they were afraid if they did so I would sell them out.

As if the years I spent working hard for them and their rights meant nothing.

But those days were long years ago, and maybe everyone forgot what I once did. Hell, sometimes I forget, it's been so long. And if I knew it was happening to me, then probably I should have opened my eyes and assumed it was happening to others.

What's done is done, though. I've asked for and received an accounting of the year's royalties, but the immediate response I got was followed by silence when I pointed out a possible discrepancy. I will give it a few more days before deciding what the next step will be.

One more thing: A certain review site came on Twitter and blasted CZP and the complicit authors (and really, I have no idea how many there might be, because I really still am out of touch) but worded it thus: "Chizine seems to be rife with shady practices, and vile authors..."

I called them out on this, suggesting this sounded like they were happy to lump all CZP authors in with this group, and was told I was "nit picking a badly worded phrase" and I should "excuse the phrasing."

Oh, and that they had "never even heard of" me.

Here's the thing. I had never heard of them, either, but that wasn't important. This is a big tent, unruly and bursting at the seams but always growing larger nonetheless, and we're not going to know everybody. But unless someone has done wrong by you or your compatriots, there is no need to shit on them.

So for those few people who lived the tweets this review site wrote in response to me, I will remember. It's not a threat, nothing with meat on it, just self-preservation. If I ever do attend a con again and we find ourselves in the same space I will just walk away, cause no scene, just ghost. Because life is too short, you know?

Late addendum: Here's a link that helps explain much of what has gone on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Books! We Have Books!

I am weeding books in preparation for downsizing and am therefore tossing them up here first for sale (such as it is). I've divided them in science fiction/fantasy/horror (SF/F), regular fiction (F), non-fiction (NF), comic-related (C), and advance reader's copies (ARC).

They're listed by category and then title, with the author name following, because I started that way and don't feel like backing up to fix it.

I don't list condition. If that's an issue for you, let me know. If someone contacts me about a book and I notice something, I will let them know. A few books will be remainders, and I will note that when asked about the title.

Hardcovers, $2 each, trade paperbacks $1 each, mass market 25 cents. Oversized books will depend on what it is, but some will be in that range. Buy 6 for the price of 5. If you don't live in Saskatoon we will discuss mailing costs, depending on how many you want and how you want them sent.

Contact me at

Also, the types of books are:

HC - hardcover
TP - trade paperback
MM - mass market paperback
OS - oversized


Throne of the Crescent Moon MM - Saladin Ahmed
Company Town TP - Madeline Ashby
The New Hugo Winners Vol II HC - ed. Isaac Asimov
Ship Breaker HC - Paolo Bacigalupi
Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy Vol. 3 TP - ed. Kevin Brockmeier
Summerland HC - Michael Chabon
Crank Autumn 1994 TP - ed. Bryan Cholfin
Tesseracts 8 HC - ed. John Clute and Candas Jane Dorsey
The Invisible Library TP - Genevieve Cogman
Tesseracts 15 TP - ed. Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor
The Silent HC - Jack Dann
Vanishing Acts HC - ed. Ellen Datlow
Adventures in Unhistory HC - Avram Davidson
The Strain MM - Guillermo De Toro and Chuck Hogan
Valis TP - Philip K. Dick
The Steampunk Trilogy HC - Paul DiFilippo
The Word of God TP - Thomas M. Disch
Vellum TP - Hal Duncan
Again, Dangerous Visions 2 MM - ed Harlan Ellison
Edgeworks 1: Over the Edge, An Edge in My Voice HC - Harlan Ellison
The Demon Redcoat MM - CC Finlay
The Patriot Witch MM - CC Finlay
A Spell For the Revolution MM - CC Finlay
The Graveyard Book HC - Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane HC - Neil Gaiman
Gravity Wells TP - James Alan Gardner
Spook Country HC - William Gibson
The Road to Science Fiction 32 MM - James Gunn
Bored of the Rings MM - Harvard Lampoon
Starlight 2 HC - ed. Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Guardian of the Dead TP - Karen Healey
The Fireman TP - Joe Hill
Northern Frights 3 TP - ed. Don Hutchison
Northern Frights 5 HC - ed. Don Hutchison
Deepdrive HC - Alexander Jablokov
Tesseracts 7 HC - ed. Paula Johanson and Jean-Louis Trudel
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book HC - Terry Jones and Brian Froud
Sandman Slim MM - Richard Kadrey
The Moon and the Other HC - John Kessel
Bag of Bones HC - Stephen King
The Outsider HC - Stephen King
Under the Dome HC - Stephen King
Logorrhea TP - ed John Klima
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters TP - Ursula K. Le Guin
North of Infinity TP - ed. Micheal Magnini
Counting Heads HC - David Marusek
Evolution’s Shore TP - Ian McDonald
Mission Child HC - Maureen F. McHugh
Nekropolis TP - Maureen F. McHugh
The Moon and the Sun HC - Vonda N. McIntyre
Perdido Street Station TP - China Mieville
Railsea TP - China Mieville
The Scar TP - China Mieville
Nebula Awards 28 TP - ed. James Morrow
Victory of Eagles HC - Victory of Eagles
Who Fears Death TP - Nnedi Okorafor
On Spec magazine TP - #s 73, 76, 80-89, 91-94, 96-98, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109
The Stress of Her Regard MM - Tim Powers
The Colour of Magic MM - Terry Pratchett
Boneshaker TP - Cherie Priest
The Gold Coast: Three Californias TP - Kim Stanley Robinson
Unconquered Countries HC - Geoff Ryman
Was TP - Geoff Ryman
Nebula Awards 29 HC - ed. Pamela Sargent
Crossing the Line TP - ed. Robert J Sawyer and David Skene-Melvin
The Crook Factory HC - Dan Simmons
Drood HC - Dan Simmons
Lovedeath HC - Dan Simmons
The Terror TP - Dan Simmons
Gray Lensman TP - EE “Doc” Smith
The Servants TP - Michael Marshall Smith
Arkwright HC - Allen Steele
Coyote MM - Allen Stele
Spindrift MM - Allen Steele
Distraction HC - Bruce Sterling
Anathem HC - Neal Stephenson
Cryptonomicon HC - Neal Stephenson
The Diamond Age HC - Neal Stephenson
Photographing Fairies TP - Steve Szilagyi
Defining Diana TP - Hayden Trenholm
Deathless HC - Catherynne M. Valente
Annihilation TP - Jeff Vandermeer
Fast Ships, Black Sails TP - ed. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Journey to the Centre of the Earth TP - Jules Verne
Reluctant Voyagers HC - Elisabeth Vonarburg
Farthing MM - Jo Walton
Ha’Penny MM - Jo Walton
The Just City HC - Jo Walton 
The Philosopher Kings HC - Jo Walton
Spin HC - Robert Charles Wilson
Who Censored Roger Rabbit? MM - Gary Wolf
Home Fires HC - Gene Wolfe
Soldier of Arete HC - Gene Wolfe
Soldier of the Mist MM - Gene Wolfe

Nebula Awards 22 TP - ed. George Zebrowski


The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel TP - Edward Abbey
Big Trouble HC - Dave Barry
The Further Adventures of Halley’s Comet TP - John Calvin Batchelor
A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English TP - ed. Donna Bennett and Russell Brown
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller TP - Italo Calvino
Time & the Hunter TP - Italo Calvino
Bliss P - Peter Carey
Murther & Walking Spirits HC - Robertson Davies
Pady Clarke Ha Ha Ha HC - Roddy Doyle
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors HC - Roddy Doyle
Stones HC - Timothy Findley
The Telling of Lies HC - Timothy Findley
Five Canadian Plays TP
The Collector TP - John Fowles
Cherry Blossoms TP - Wes Funk (signed, for some reason, to Angela
Caleb Williams TP - William Godwin
Swan Lake OS HC - Mark Helprin, ill. Chris Van Allsburg
The Blessing Way MM - Tony Hillerman
Coyote Waits HC - Tony Hillerman
Dance Hall of the Dead MM - Tony Hillerman
The Fallen Man HC - Tony Hillerman
Finding Moon HC - Tony Hillerman
Sacred Clowns HC - Tony Hillerman
Round Rock TP - Michelle Huneven
The Ha-Ha TP - Dave King
No Great Mischief TP - Alistair MacLeod
News From a Foreign Country Came HC - Alberto Manguel
Counterpoint TP - Marie Moser
The River Beyond the World TP - Janet Peery
A Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English TP - ed. Victor J. Ramraj
Wide Sargasso Sea TP - Jean Rhys
Beautiful Joe MM - Marshall Saunders
Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species TP
Star Wars: The New Essential Chronology TP
Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles & Vessels TP
Restoration HC - Rose Tremain
Waiting For Columbus HC - Thomas Trofimuk
The Night of the Moonbow HC - Thomas Tryon
The Forest Laird MM - Jack Whyte
Winters’ Tales TP - Jonathan Winters
A Man Jumps Ou of an Airplane Wearing Dad’s Head TP - Barry Yourgrau


Down the River TP - Edward Abbey
Spoken Here TP - Mark Abley
The Life That Lives on Man MM - Michael Andrews
The Tomb of God HC - Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger
The Last River HC - Todd Balf
National Geographic Dinosaurs OS HC - Paul Barrett
On a Cold Road TP - Dave Bidini
Tropic of Hockey TP - Dave Bidini
Writing on Gordon Lightfoot HC - Dave Bidini
The Universe Below HC - William J Broad
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs TP - Steve Brusatte
Scholastic Canada Book of Lists TP - ed. James Buckley, Jr. et al 
The Day the Universe Changed TP - Jams Burke
L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? HC - Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.
A Beginner’s Guider to Drawing Comic, Caricatures & Cartoon Strips TP - Peter Coupe
Creative Source Sixth Annual Edition HC
Toally Useless Skills TP - Rick Davis
The Greatest Show on Earth HC - Richard Dawkins
The Magic of Reality HC - Richard Dawkins ill. Dave McKean
Roman Aromas: Smelly Old History TP - Mary Dobson
Victorian Vapours: Smelly Old History TP - Mary Dobson
A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader TP - ed. Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan
More Joy of Photography TP - Eastman Kodak
In the Empire of Ice HC - Gretel Ehrlich
The Miner’s Canary HC - Niles Eldredge
An Edge in My Voice TP - Harlan Ellison
Witchcraft Oracles and Magic Among the Azande TP - EE Evans-Pritchard
Mysterious Monsters HC - Daniel Farson & Angus Hall
Virtual Clearcut HC - Brian Fawcett
The Adventure of Nature Photography TP - Tim Fitzharris
Bad Trips TP - Keath Fraser
The Fighting Fisherman HC - Raymond Fraser
Gone to New York HC - Ian Frazier
Hogs Wild HC - Ian Frazier
The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs OS HC - intro Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point HC - Malcolm Gladwell
Wait Till Next Year HC - William Goldman and Mike Lupica
The Panda’s Thumb MM - Stephen Jay Gould
Victoria: A History in Photographs TP - Peter Grant
Schrodinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality HC - John Gribbin
Marley and Me HC Illustrated edition - John Grogan
The New Comics TP - ed. Gary Groth and Robert Fiore
The Worst Rock n’ Roll Records of All Time TP - Jimmy Gutterman & Owen O’Donnell
Walking With Dinosaurs OS HC - Tim Haines
Scottish Myths & Legends TP - Judy Hamilton
Victorian and Edwardian Photographs HC - Margaret F. Harker
Stigmata HC - Ted Harrison
Paper Dinosaurs HC - David Hawcock
The Art of Color Photography TP - John Hedgecoe
Going Too Far HC - Tony Hendra
Mysteries of Magic HC - Stuart Holroyd & Neil Powell
Alberta: A History in Photographs TP - Faye Holt
The Fatal Shore HC - Robert Hughes
On the Sky HC - Robert Hunter
Talk Talk Talk HC - Jay Ingram
The Guinea Pig Diaries HC - AJ Jacobs
The Know-It-All TP - AJ Jacobs 
To See Every Bird of Earth
Flu HC - Gina Kolata
Mapping the Deep TP - Robert Kunzig
Cod TP - Mark Kurlansky
Religion Inc. HC - Stewart Lamont
The Black Book of English Canada TP - Normand Lester
The Missionaries:God Against the Indians TP - Norman Lewis
The Golden Ratio TP - Mario Livio
Rest in Pieces TP - Bess Lovejoy
Operation Mincemeat TP - Ben MacIntyre
Stolen Words TP - Thomas Mallon
A History of Reading HC - Alberto Manguel
Measuring the Earth With a Stick HC - Bob McDonald
How to Photograph Sports & Action TP - Robert McQuilkin
Mexico City: The Monocle Travel Guide HC
Bare-Faced Messiah HC - Russell Miller
Worldwalk MM - Steven M Newman
The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period Vol. 2A 7th ed.
Daddy Cool TP - Hugh O’Neill
Holidays in Hell HC - PJ O’Rourke
Apocalypse Culture TP - ed. Adam Parfrey
Red or Dead TP - David Peace
Watch the Skies! HC - Curtis Peebles
The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1660 TP - Samuel Pepys
Do Not Sell at Any Price TP - Amanda Petrusich
The Best of Photojournalism/9 TP
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance MM - Robert M Pirsig
Insect-Opedia HC - Hugh Raffles
The Mask of Nostradamus HC - James Randi
A Fire on the Mountains HC - Oakland Ross
Imaginary Homelands HC - Salman Rushdie
The 34-Ton Bat HC - Steve Rushin
The Lemur’s Legacy HC - Robert Jay Russell, PH.D.
The Paradox of Choice TP - Barry Schwartz
holidays on ice HC - David Sedaris
The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques TP - John Shaw
Why People Believe Weird Things HC - Michael Shermer
Galileo’s Daughter TP - Dava Sobel
The Planets HC - Dava Sobel
Unmasking the Forger: The Dossena Deception HC - David Sox
Travels With Charley MM - John Steinbeck
Britannia: 100 Documents That Shaped a Nation HC - Graham Stewart
Light Elements TP - Judith Stone
The Great Divide HC - Studs Terkel
Eats Shoots & Leaves HC - Lynne Truss
The Cat’s Pajamas TP - Tad Tuleja
Perennial Gardening Guide TP - John M. Valleau
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States - Sarah Vowell 
Five Minute Challenge #1 TP - Ken Weber
Consilience HC - Edward O. Wilson
Pumping Ions TP - Tom Wujec


Classic Illustrated Through the Looking Glass TP - Kyle Baker
Orbiter HC - Warren Ellis, Collen Doran, David Stewart
Beowulf TP - based on the Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary screenplay
Marvel 1602 TP - Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove
Great Expectations TP - Rick Geary
Bayou Vol. 1 TP - Jeremy Love
In Your Face TP - Doug Marlette
Mr. Gazoo TP - Tom Toles
Doonesbury: The Original Yale Cartoons TP - Garry Trudeau
Mage: The Hero Discoverd V-two OS TP - Matt Wagner
The Raven and Other Poems TP - Gahan Wilson

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Movies of 2018

I did not see anywhere near the number of movies this past year I've seen in previous years. In 2017 I saw 74 movies, 34 on the big screen. In 2018, I only saw 61, 23 in the theatre. I will note I saw Lady Bird on January 1, but had included it in my 2017 list. The number of countries is down again, from 10 to 9. I have every intention of changing that up this coming year. As a reminder, I live in a city essentially in the middle of nowhere, so there are many films that come late, if they come at all.

The countries?

South Korea

Here's the list. As in all my other yearly roundups, an asterisk (*) indicates I saw it in the theatre. I've included a short note with each, but caution I am not doing this as a critic.

*The Post (2017) USA - A top notch Spielberg film, very timely not just for what it says about the press in the Trump age, but also how men are always shutting down and shutting out women, even as they pay no attention to this fact.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) USA - Gloriously cheesy, and better fun than I would have imagined. Not a classic, but I did enjoy it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) USA - Jackson and Reynolds play up the cliches about themselves, and it makes for some fun. I enjoyed it well enough; decent fodder for a plane ride, which is what it was.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) USA - Outstanding documentary and I wish I had seen it earlier. Shocking to see how society has traveled pretty much no distance towards decency in all these years.

Icarus (2017) USA - An excellent documentary that started with one conceit, about a bike rider who thought he would dope for a year and see if it improved his results, and ended with a huge story that (sorta) brought down Russian sports.

*Hostiles (2018) USA - Good western about troubled and troubling characters coming to terms with their pasts and about the humanity they might still be capable of, even in the face of the evil they’ve done in the past. But the ending breaks down, feels ridiculously colonialist and even patronizing.

The Polka King (2018) USA - Wow, is Jack Black ever great in this. Based on the true story of Jan Lewan, the self-styled Polka King, who ran a Ponzi scheme and ended up in jail. Some portions seem too outlandish to be true, and yet they were. Like his meeting the Pope.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) USA - Excellent and strange thriller written and directed by Macon Blair, who starred in Blue Ruin. Kind of goes crazy with the violence at the end, in a way that had us laughing. I appreciated, too, that Ruth’s bad-assery at the end wasn’t about fighting but rather about finding inner strength.

*Phantom Thread (2017) USA - Outstanding, quiet, the sort of movie that was more common back in the ‘70s. No criminal escapades, no thrills, no explosions, just a beautiful and sometimes tense film about people and relationships.

Elle (2016) France - Isabelle Huppert is outstanding and certainly earned her Oscar nod for this movie, but wow, what an odd and creepy movie, full of characters very difficult to like.

The Ritual (2018) UK - A decent horror film, well done at not going overboard on the reveal until close to the end. Yeah, the creature is a tad ridiculous, but well-handled, I thought.

*Black Panther (2018) USA - An excellent MCU movie, although, as I believe I have noted before, eventually there gets to be a sameness to all the CGI battle scenes. These are superheroes, dammit, and therefore have to be able to fling themselves about or fly or hurl the baddies through walls. But a tremendous story, one of the best bad guys the MCU has seen, and a wonderful cast.

*Annihilation (2018) USA - Very good version of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novels. Dark and purposefully slow, thoughtful, gorgeous, and a wonderful soundscape. And the scene with the “bear” and the three of them tied up in the chairs was as effed-up creepy as possible.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) USA - Gorgeous and fun with the camera work, although I sometimes think the all-star cast was a bit wasted, since this was primarily the Kenneth Branagh show. Still, I enjoyed it.

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2015) USA - The opening sequence was an absolute thrill, and the rest of the film can’t keep up with that, but it was still an excellent documentary.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) UK - A decent enough film, but I’m happy enough having seen it on a streaming service and not having paid extra to see it in the theatre. 

Mudbound (2017) USA - Excellent film about race, about conflict, and atmospheric as all get out.

*The Death of Stalin (2017) UK - Hilarious and so very very dark. An awful lot to appreciate in this film, so it may be odd to single out the actors using their own accents, but I am going to do that anyhow.

*Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) USA - Good fun, and it's nice for a superhero movie to work on a (pun intended) small scale, rather than end-of-the-world stuff.

Memoir of a Murderer (2017) South Korea - Astonishing and dark film, full of disturbing twists and sowing plenty of confusion.

*Avengers: Infinity War (2018) USA - My favourite MCU film in quite some time, which is a surprise, considering how unwieldy it could have been. Said with the knowledge that it’s actually only part one, though, so incomplete.

I, Tonya (2017) USA - Both Robbie and Janney were excellent in this, and I find myself weirded out that Bucky from the Captain American films is in this. Nicely crazed, although I don't have to go digging for background facts to guess they pushed the envelope on the facts now and again. Enjoyable. 

Molly’s Game (2017) USA - Aaron Sorkin’s first directorial effort, and a pretty decent one at that. Plays at some times almost like a thriller.

Cargo (2018) Australia - A very good and quite moving zombie movie. Nice to see Martin Freeman carrying a film like this.

*Deadpool 2 (2018) USA - Funny and fun and, wonder of wonders, the fight and action scenes were largely secondary to the rest of the film. Better than the original, I thought.

*Solo (2018) USA - Better than I expected, but not anything approaching good. The wide shot in the dark room of the card-playing scene was absolutely gorgeous, though, the only thing that stands out for me. Certainly not going down as a classic.

*You Were Never Really Here (2018) USA - An astonishing, gripping, slow and quiet thriller, disturbing and violent, but often at a remove.

Game Night (2018) USA - One smart and very funny action/comedy, full of nice twists and turns and people by interesting and relatable (if often very odd) characters.

*Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) USA - Another excellent addition to the set, full of absurd and fun stunts and set pieces.

*Hereditary (2018) USA - Creepy as hell, upsetting and unsettling. I thought the ending went a little too over the top, but still an excellent horror.

Their Finest Hour (2017) UK - A decent enough WW2-era film that mostly deals quite well with women’s rights, although it might stumble a bit with that near the end.

*Sorry to Bother You (2018) USA - An astonishing if somewhat raw debut film, full of wildness and weirdness. Bonus points for being a very strongly pro-union movie.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) UK - Another WW2-era story, a nice enough froth to enjoy one evening.

*BlacKKKlansman (2018) USA - Not nearly as funny as the trailers made it out to be, and that’s good. Not first-rate Spike Lee, but even his minor stuff is well worth seeing.

*Juliet, Naked (2018) UK - Another Nick Hornby adaptation, in this one Ethan Hawke continues his apparently Very Good Year. Not an instant classic like High Fidelity, but I would say it approaches About a Boy.

All the Money in the World (2017) USA - After having watched Danny Boyle’s excellent miniseries Trust, it seemed sensible to watch this movie, about the same events surrounding the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. I know the series had a few more issues with veracity, but I enjoyed it a little more than this, which was still a good movie. 

The Angel (2018) Israel - A fairly decent movie about an Egyptian, the son-in-law of President Nasser, who ended up as a mole for the Israelis.

Tag (2018) USA - A fun comedy which, sadly, drops much of the actual true story in what i suppose is a sop to streamlining. Most remarkable for the fact that Jeremy Renner’s arms were broken during filming and they had to digitally erase the casts.

Murder Party (2007) USA - Hilarious and VERY rough around the edges, the first feature from Jeremy Saulnier, financed largely by credit cards, his own and those of the cast (who were also the crew and producers).

Hold the Dark (2018) USA - As opposed to Murder Party, Jeremy Saulnier’s latest film is a fine work, sharp and well-made and extraordinarily violent. I don’t know if I buy the initial premise that brings Jeffrey Wright’s character to the north, but once he’s there it all works very well. 

*First Man (2018) USA - Riveting and astonishing, especially if seen on the IMAX screen. Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong is a distant and cool character, but it still works. The launch and flight and landing scenes are all nerve-wracking, and when Armstrong and Aldrin land on the Moon and the screen expands to account for the IMAX film it is a thing of wonder.

*2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) USA - So glad to see this on the big screen in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

22 July (2018) Norway - The true story of the terror attack in Norway, and of its aftermath. Directed with his usual attention to real life detail and often using non-actors, Paul Greengrass (who did the same with United 93) created a gripping film that needs to be included in the discussion of the year in film but too often may be forgotten. 

*The Old Man & The Gun (2018) USA - A fine piece of work by Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck. Another true story, although again with many things changed. The meeting between Redford and Affleck was everything that the meeting between De Niro and Pacino in Heat was, although with more humour.

The Night Comes For Us (2018) Indonesia - Compared by many to the Raid movies, for a time it seems to be just a series of set pieces designed to one-up each other with violence. It gets better, but never matches the panache of the Gareth Evans-directed Raid and its sequel.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) USA - An okay doc about Orson Welles and the making of The Other Side of the Wind, which only this year finally was patched up and released, on Netflix. And which I have yet to watch.

Apostle (2018) USA - Speaking of Gareth Evans (Raid), his first big English-language film is a dark fantasy and, not surprisingly, pretty violent. Worth watching.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) USA - As in almost every Coen Brothers film, there is not a lot (read: any) of diversity in the cast. Put that aside, though, because this is an incredible and very dark - yet fun - movie.

*Widows (2018) USA - A tremendous heist thriller with a great cast and a nice twist.

Isle of Dogs (2018) USA - Wes Anderson has made better movies, but still enjoyable and loopy and fun.

The Endless (2017) USA - A simple low-budget SF movie about two brothers who return to a cult they once belonged to, for one last visit, and almost get stuck there forever. And ever.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) USA - Yes, it was as fun as everyone says, but I do find my tolerance for watching the plights of the super rich lessens as time goes on. Even though they seem to try and impart a similar lesson late in the film.

Rampage (2018) USA - A big bag of dumb. Fun dumb, but still dumb.

*Roma (2018) Mexico - Glorious and gorgeous. There are four lengthy shots that still stand out in my mind: of the forest fire; the student riot; the hospital; and at the beach. The first time I saw it was on Netflix, and am happy to have seen it in the theatre when it was re-released. The sound design was amazing in the theatre, and seeing it the second time unearthed new things for me. A wonder of a film.

Bird Box (2018) USA - An excellent horror/thriller that will receive comparisons to The Quiet Place, but really, it stands on its own and treats the problem with its own logic. A great cast backs up a very good Sandra Bullock, and I was certainly on the edge of my seat many times throughout.

*Mary Poppins Returns (2018) US - Outstanding. A great trip down memory lane, and the best Disney remake/sequel I’ve seen.

Calibre (2018) UK - A terrific and tense Scottish thriller about a hunting trip gone wrong, a horrible accident accompanied by awful decisions leading to a horror that  affects a whole lot of people. Also, a haunting final shot that seems almost unrelenting.

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) USA - Not the best movie of the year, but man oh man, it was certainly the most enjoyable. Such a smart, clever, fun film, self-knowing and really on the ball about the character’s comic book, TV, and movie history.

Upgrade (2018) Australia - A very good SF/action piece with an atypical ending. The acting by Logan Marshall-Green is excellent: scenes in which is body is doing one thing and his mind wants to do something else are tremendous, believable no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

Ready Player One (2018) USA - Well, not as bad as many people have been saying, but certainly not anywhere near the top of Spielberg’s films. The only real highlight for me was Mark Rylance as Halliday. Yes, even the hair.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) USA - A fine but only moderately emotional documentary about Mr. Rogers. There was some depth to it, but sometimes it didn’t feel like quite enough. Perhaps when everyone talked about the emotional heft and all the tears I expected to react more strongly, and yet I didn’t.

My Top 10 of the year was a little easier this time around, with the only question up until the end was if I included my 10th pick, since it was actually a 2017 film. In the end I decided it needed to be there, since it didn't come to town until 2018.

1. Roma
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. Sorry to Bother You
4. You Were Never Really Here
5. Annihilation
6. Memoir of a Murderer
7. Widows
8. 22 July
9. The Old Man and the Gun
10. The Death of Stalin

Interestingly, I didn't see anything this year that made me angry. I suppose part of it is me getting too old to bother with obvious crap. My honourable mentions, mostly in order of when I saw them: The Polka King; I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore; Phantom Thread (would have been on the 2017 top ten if I'd seen it in time); Mission: Impossible - Fallout; Ant-Man and the Wasp; Black Panther; MudboundAvengers: Infinity War; Game Night; Hereditary; BlacKKKlansman; Hold the Dark; First Man; Apostle; Isle of Dogs; Bird Box; Mary Poppins Returns; Calibre; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Upgrade.


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