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🎬 "If they gave a prize for being mean, the winner would be him!"

🎬 "If they gave a prize for being mean, the winner would be him!"
By Eric Johnson • Issue #104 • View online
I had intended, in this edition, to bring you a review of 1966’s The Fortune Cookie. It’s a Billy Wilder-written comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and, well, I enjoyed the first two-thirds of it. Then the DVD broke.
Normally, the remedy would be simple: Find the movie on streaming, or, failing that, rent or buy it from one of the big digital platforms. But for some unknown and probably stupid reason, it is not legally available anywhere online, so no Fortune Cookie for you. $8.78 later, a used copy is on its way to me — hope it works.
A gentle reminder, but only if you can spare the change, to support this newsletter with a one-time donation on Buy Me a Coffee. Today’s contribution is tomorrow’s unnecessary eBay purchase!
P.S. Want to hear me being interviewed about my new company? Of course you do!

🐘 Animals Are Beautiful People
Animals Are Beautiful People is a lighthearted nature documentary that I found to be surprisingly lovely.
The conceit, which you might have guessed from the title, is simple but effective: Fun and relatable anthropomorphic stories and characters based on well-filmed wild animal footage, most of which evokes the right mixture of wonder and cheer. In one sequence, for example, a motley crew of creatures in the Okavongo Delta eat the rotting, fermented fruit that has fallen off of the marula tree and (we’re told) stumble around drunkenly before falling asleep and waking up with the pained expressions of a hangover headache.
Some of these scenes are exaggerated or fabricated, and there is a cringeworthy sequence about Africa’s “bushmen” that has not aged well at all for reasons you can probably imagine, contrasting the lives of indigenous peoples to “civilized” man. But if you can power through that gross misstep and don’t take the rest too seriously, the movie is quite enjoyable. Recommended. ★★★★
Animals Are Beautiful People - Trailer
Animals Are Beautiful People - Trailer
Animals Are Beautiful People is not currently streaming anywhere, but it is available to rent or buy (in standard definition) from these platforms.
☠️ First Blood
Like a lot of people who hadn’t seen the Rambo movies, I had a picture of John Rambo in my head: An army-of-one killing machine returning to the jungles of Vietnam for one last mission, a denialist symbol of America’s inability to deal with its humiliating loss in an unnecessary war.
Imagine my surprise to find that First Blood, the movie that introduced the world to Sylvester Stallone‘s second-most-famous character, is set in (checks notes) the Pacific Northwest? Turns out, Mr. Rambo doesn’t go back to Vietnam until the sequel. And what’s more, this movie somewhat cleverly flips the script by pitting him against an overconfident machismo-driven American police force.
The character here, other than his guerilla war expertise, is not at all who I imagined. Rather than an impervious brute, he’s been psychologically decimated by PTSD and the resentment he faced upon returning home. There’s plenty of shooting and explosions to go around, but I really admired that this is an action movie without a one-note protagonist. Recommended. ★★★★
First Blood (1982) - Trailer (HD)
First Blood (1982) - Trailer (HD)
First Blood is currently streaming on Sling TV.
⛸ I, Tonya
I hadn’t seen I, Tonya since it came out in 2017, and I liked it even more on this viewing than I did the first time around.
I especially love the way the film is constructed, around “wildly contradictory, totally true” faux-documentary interviews with its subjects, including Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding, Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly, And Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother, LaVona Harding. The cast is all excellent, especially Robbie and Janney, and the script is precariously perched between comedy and drama without teetering too much in either direction.
My girlfriend observed that much of Harding’s life before “the incident” that made her infamous is so sad that this could have been a played-straight Oscar-bait misery-porn story; she endured years of physical and psychological abuse in her first 23 years, only to become a caricatured villain in the early days of 24-hour news. The deliberately mixed tone makes the movie’s thesis — that truth is subjective and judgment is easy — land that much harder, and the story itself is grippingly acted and edited. Recommended. ★★★★
I, Tonya Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers
I, Tonya Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers
I, Tonya is currently streaming on Hulu.
🎄 The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a short and sweet adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel that ever gets old for me, and I admire the degree to which the filmmakers sought to borrow as much from the book as they could, which was certainly not a requirement for a kids’ movie.
For instance, The Great Gonzo (performed by Dave Goelz) is cast as Dickens himself, narrating the story with sections lifted verbatim from the text, while also slapsticking around with his frequent sidekick Rizzo the Rat (performed by Steve Whitmire). The latter is the one part of the movie that feels overdone to me; I understand the need to hold young children’s attention, but the antics are so much less creative than the rest of the film.
Michael Caine is an outstanding Ebenezer Scrooge, certainly the best I’ve seen in any adaptation of this story, and the rest of the cast is cleverly filled out with both humans and muppets, to great effect. The songs, too, are better than they have any right to be, and it is an insult to this film’s legacy that “It Feels Like Christmas” has not been covered in every pop star’s obligatory Christmas music album. Recommended. ★★★★
The Muppet Christmas Carol | Original Trailer [HD] | Coolidge Corner Theatre
The Muppet Christmas Carol | Original Trailer [HD] | Coolidge Corner Theatre
The Muppet Christmas Carol is currently streaming on Disney+.
🚔 The French Connection
I knew, vaguely, that The French Connection had a famous chase scene in it, and now that I’ve seen the movie, I see that that fame is well-deserved. This is a hugely influential cat-and-mouse crime movie, depicting New York City at its dirtiest and most corrupt.
From the first scene, we’re told not to fully empathize with our heroes — Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider — as we see them abusing suspects, extracting false confessions, and letting their hunches trump common sense. And yet, as it turns out, Hackman has a good hunch about an international heroin-smuggling ring, and will go to any means necessary to bust it.
Although I’ve yet to see his most famous role, in The Conversation, this is my favorite Hackman performance to date, and he’s backed up by a fine supporting cast, particularly Fernando Rey as the big bad Alain Charnier. Although I loved the famous chase scene and the very end of the movie (no spoilers!), I wish the script had delved a little deeper into Hackman and Scheider’s characters, to give some shading around why they do the things they do other than because it’s their jobs. Nevertheless, recommended. ★★★½
The French Connection (1971) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
The French Connection (1971) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
The French Connection is currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV.
🔢 Every Movie I've Seen in 2020, Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. The Godfather
  2. 12 Angry Men
  3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  4. Get Out
  5. Do the Right Thing
  6. Knives Out
  7. Parasite
  8. Arrival
  9. My Neighbor Totoro
  10. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  11. Airplane!
  12. The Silence of the Lambs
  13. Dick Johnson Is Dead
  14. The Lives of Others
  15. Hot Fuzz
  16. Boys State
  17. Hamilton
  18. Groundhog Day
  19. All About Eve
  20. Ocean’s Eleven
  21. West Side Story
  22. The Avengers
  23. The Farewell
  24. Vertigo
  25. 12 Years a Slave
  26. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  27. What We Do in the Shadows
  28. Spotlight
  29. Booksmart
  30. Her
  31. Moana
  32. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  33. The Matrix
  34. Moonrise Kingdom
  35. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  36. Your Name.
  37. North by Northwest
  38. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  39. The Incredibles
  40. Lost in Translation
  41. Looper
  42. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  43. The Wrong Trousers
  44. The Old Guard
  45. American Psycho
  46. Thank You For Smoking
  47. Little Women
  48. Marriage Story
  49. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  50. La La Land
  51. Sunset Boulevard
  52. Ford v Ferrari
  53. A Fish Called Wanda
  54. Bringing Up Baby
  55. Gremlins
  56. Apocalypse Now
  57. The Hidden Fortress
  58. Hell or High Water
  59. Moneyball
  60. Hacksaw Ridge
  61. I, Tonya
  62. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  63. The Lunchbox
  64. Heat
  65. Little Miss Sunshine
  66. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  67. First Blood
  68. Coming to America
  69. Hustlers
  70. Shrek
  71. Wet Hot American Summer
  72. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  73. It Follows
  74. Dolemite Is My Name
  75. Good Will Hunting
  76. Palm Springs
  77. The Grapes of Wrath
  78. Fantasia 2000
  79. First Cow
  80. Kedi
  81. Honey Boy
  82. The Great Escape
  83. Ed Wood
  84. Isle of Dogs
  85. Annihilation
  86. The Hunt for Red October
  87. Wordplay
  88. Boyhood
  89. It Happened One Night
  90. The Hunger Games
  91. 1917
  92. Animals Are Beautiful People
  93. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  94. The French Connection
  95. The Philadelphia Story
  96. Dark Waters
  97. Elf
  98. Hail, Caesar!
  99. The Death of Stalin
  100. The Irishman
  101. Zoolander
  102. 50/50
  103. Paddington
  104. Hannah and Her Sisters
  105. Horse Feathers
  106. Enemy of the State
  107. Captain Phillips
  108. Uncut Gems
  109. Independence Day
  110. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
  111. 9 to 5
  112. Frost/Nixon
  113. The Incredibles 2
  114. How the West Was Won
  115. Almost Famous
  116. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  117. Broadway Melody of 1940
  118. Bad Education
  119. Godzilla
  120. Just Mercy
  121. Kahaani
  122. Iron Man 3
  123. Midnight in Paris
  124. Da 5 Bloods
  125. High Fidelity
  126. Guardians of the Galaxy
  127. My Fair Lady
  128. Iron Man
  129. The Invisible Man
  130. Iron Man 2
  131. The Hateful Eight
  132. Happy Gilmore
  133. Gates of Heaven
  134. Emma.
  135. Men in Black
  136. Thor
  137. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
  138. Home Alone
  139. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
  140. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  141. Braveheart
  142. Bicycle Thieves
  143. Captain America: The First Avenger
  144. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  145. Bottle Rocket
  146. The Addams Family
  147. Frankenstein
  148. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
  149. Hugo
  150. All the Money in the World
  151. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  152. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  153. Live From the Space Stage: A Halyx Story
  154. John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch
  155. Onward
  156. Hidden Figures
  157. Pain and Glory
  158. Bambi
  159. The Great Dictator
  160. Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events
  161. Anastasia
  162. Easy Rider
  163. Hot Rod
  164. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
  165. Animal House
  166. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  167. You’ve Got Mail
  168. The 39 Steps
  169. Thor: The Dark World
  170. The Princess and the Frog
  171. Elysium
  172. (500) Days of Summer
  173. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  174. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  175. Modern Romance
  176. The Incredible Hulk
  177. H.M.S. Pinafore
  178. Shakespeare in Love
  179. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  180. 3:10 to Yuma
  181. The Big Country
  182. Ghost
  183. 28 Weeks Later
  184. History of the World: Part I
  185. The African Queen
  186. Greyhound
  187. Bamboozled
  188. Bullitt
  189. Dracula
  190. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  191. Bride of Frankenstein
  192. Howard the Duck
  193. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  194. The Descendants
  195. The Hangover
  196. Joker
  197. Kingpin
  198. 28 Days Later
  199. Bridesmaids
  200. The Great Gatsby
  201. 13 Assassins
  202. Creature From the Black Lagoon
  203. Benny & Joon
  204. Bad Moms
  205. High Anxiety
  206. Kentucky Fried Movie
  207. Hang ‘Em High
  208. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  209. Ice Age
  210. Romancing the Stone
  211. Crocodile Dundee
  212. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
  213. Hard Ticket to Hawaii
  214. Gods of Egypt
  215. The Gentlemen
  216. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  217. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  218. The Last Airbender
  219. Manos: The Hands of Fate

Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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