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ESJ's Movie Project - "You Are a Toy" Edition

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ESJ's Movie Project

June 28 · Issue #19 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

Even by my usual obsessive standards, I had an especially movie-packed week, dedicating my weekend to the equally important tasks of getting errands done around the house and watching three Toy Story movies. I still haven’t seen the fourth one, but I expect I will have by this time next week.
Below, you’ll find mini-reviews of what I’ve watched this week in theaters and online, which I’m also starting to post to Twitter and Letterboxd. And below that, you’ll find a running list of every new movie I’ve seen in 2019, ranked from best to worst.
The Pixar Story
Pictured: My ideal level of attendance at a movie theater.
Pretty good documentary for 2007 but in dire need of an update now, ideally done by a more critical outsider & not made by Disney. The praise lavished on John Lasseter has not aged well! It’s weirdly fitting, though, that the story here concludes with the Disney acquisition and the release of Cars — the end of the beginning for Pixar.
John Lasseter's Pattern of Alleged Misconduct Detailed by Disney/Pixar Insiders
First Spaceship on Venus
Pictured: State-of-the-art East German engineering.
I only own this 1960 East German sci-fi because it’s in an MST3K box set. It’s… rough, and even the funny commentary can only do so much. The one redeeming trait of the movie is its (well-intentioned, but unsuccessful) attempt to say something novel about nuclear weapons and war.‬
First Man
Pictured: Claire Foy acting in Ryan Gosling's direction.
I was dreading my rewatch of FIRST MAN, remembering it as stressful and depressing — and it is that. But seeing it again made me appreciate how well-acted and directed it is, with near-perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy as Neil and Jan Armstrong. It’s a damn shame that so few people saw First Man in theaters and that it was snubbed at the Oscars. Highly recommended.
Toy Story
Pictured: A little lightbulb that blinks.
‪I have to say, the first TOY STORY holds up. It’s quick, clever, charming, and the animation doesn’t look as rough as I expected. Even though I saw this movie umpteen times as a kid, it still makes me laugh today; basically every one of Rex and Buzz’s lines made me lol. The only thing that feels dated is the sudden interjection of some of Randy Newman’s songs, but that’s about it.‬
Toy Story 2
Pictured: How I feel about revisiting any Toy Story movie.
The TOY STORY 2 that made it to theaters was (supposedly) rushed out in about nine months, which is nothing short of a miracle. And it’s still delightful today, offering both real character growth and clever easter eggs for the fans — although, IMO, it’s not quite as good as the other two films I’ve seen. The Woody plot is fantastic, but the other toys’ adventure feels largely superfluous, even though it’s some of Pixar’s funniest material. All that being said, I’d recommend Emily VanDerWerff’s essay about why she believes Toy Story 2 is, in fact, the best of the series. It’s a close call!
What is the best Toy Story movie? (Hint: It’s Toy Story 2.) - Vox
Toy Story 3
Pictured: The low-key most-tearjerking scene Pixar has ever created (take that, Up).
Happy to report that TOY STORY 3 lives up to my memory as one of Pixar’s all-time best films. For me, it’s a perfect mix of the studio’s wit, heart and creativity, juggling a massive cast of beloved characters like it’s nothing, and ending (or so we thought) the series perfectly.
The Fog of War
Pictured: Some guy named Bob.
THE FOG OF WAR is a great and, in hindsight, even more tragic documentary than it was in 2003. Guided by JFK and LBJ’s defense secretary Robert McNamara, today it reads as an unheeded warning about how not to repeat the mistakes of the Vietnam War in Iraq and Afghanistan. I really like Errol Morris’ interviewing and editing style and have added a bunch of his other movies to my (very, very, long) watchlist.
The Biggest Little Farm
Pictured: Emma the pig and friend.
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM has some gorgeous camera work and several cute scenes, but I was frustrated by how the documentary poked at the same problems/solutions over and over, while withholding other details that seemed important. It felt more like a long commercial than a movie, and I would have preferred a documentary about the same people made by an outside observer, rather than the newbie-farmers themselves.
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Pictured: Relatable waiting-for-MUNI feels.
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO is a lovingly told portrait of two characters whose hometown seemingly rejects them. I really liked the performances of Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, which far outshone the simple story. Recommended, especially for San Franciscans.
For Your Eyes Only
Pictured: Someone getting too old for this shit.
‪FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) has a rep as one of the lesser Bond movies, but I have to admit, I like it. The sublimely silly winter sports action set-piece is pure joy, the female lead here is more active than most, and the (so-so) villain’s henchmen get some genuinely rough hits in‬.
Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. Booksmart
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. Us
  4. Free Solo
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Amazing Grace
  7. The Favourite
  8. Long Shot
  9. The Wife
  10. Apollo 11
  11. Shoplifters
  12. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  13. Aladdin
  14. Green Book
  15. Slut in a Good Way
  16. Cold War
  17. Rocketman
  18. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  19. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  20. Roma
  21. On the Basis of Sex
  22. Shazam!
  23. Fighting With My Family
  24. They Shall Not Grow Old
  25. Mary Poppins Returns
  26. Captain Marvel
  27. Minding the Gap
  28. Tolkien
  29. The Biggest Little Farm
  30. Alita: Battle Angel
  31. The Dead Don’t Die
  32. Stan & Ollie
  33. Vice
  34. Bohemian Rhapsody
  35. Aquaman

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