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🎬 John Mulaney, the Grapes of Wrath, and Knives Out (again)

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ESJ's Movie Project

January 10 · Issue #50 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

📫 Evergreen reminder: Reply to this email with your reactions and recommendations for what I should watch in the future

After the smorgasbord of movies I watched over the holidays, I slowed down considerably this week. But I have a huge number of films I want to plow through before the Oscars. Current top of the list: 1917, Little Women, Uncut Gems, and Marriage Story. And I guess I still have to see Joker at some point, huh?
🚸 John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch
Pictured: When you're in your thirties but you still kind of need an adult.
Pictured: When you're in your thirties but you still kind of need an adult.
I went into JOHN MULANEY AND THE SACK LUNCH BUNCH with impossibly high expectations. His last two stand-up comedy specials (The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous) are practically perfect, and I loved the idea of him taking a gamble on a super weird new idea: A musical kids show hosted by a childless man who can barely sing. The bet mostly pays off, with several very funny segments and some absolutely hilarious interviews with Mulaney’s young costars, focusing on their fears and anxieties. Compared to his Swiss-watch-precise stand up specials, the show is uneven, and some of the songs wear out their welcome. But like a good episode of SNL, the bits that work are great and you quickly forget the rest. Fingers crossed for a Mr. Music spinoff special.
🍇 The Grapes of Wrath
Pictured: I'm not saying John Mulaney could play Henry Fonda in a dramatization of how this movie was made, but I'm also not NOT saying that.
Pictured: I'm not saying John Mulaney could play Henry Fonda in a dramatization of how this movie was made, but I'm also not NOT saying that.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH is a classic book-to-film adaptation with a famous inspirational ending (two of them, in fact), but I always forget the nuances of the Joad family’s struggle en route. Although there are certainly bad people standing in their way between dust storm-ravaged Oklahoma and the farms of California, the real villain of the story is systemic rather than personal; the people who hurt the Joads and their Okie peers are not so different from the ones in our time who use cruelty and violence to reinforce the status quo without ever questioning their actions. Although some of the acting and writing choices are overwrought by today’s standards, Tom Joad is an enduring character because his story still resonates today. I admire so much the way the film commits to the desperation of his family’s circumstances, without steering into full-on tragedy porn.
🔪 Knives Out
Pictured: This is the worst piano bar I've ever been to, the guy only plays one note!
Pictured: This is the worst piano bar I've ever been to, the guy only plays one note!
I already watched and reviewed this movie when it came out, and loved it so much that it became my number one film of 2019. Yesterday, I harangued a group of friends into seeing it again with me and — good news — it’s still incredible. Here’s what I wrote after my first viewing:
I was expecting the superb thriller Parasite to ride out 2019 in the number one slot on the list below, but KNIVES OUT is my new favorite movie of the year. Just as with Parasite, you should just see this movie as soon as you can knowing as little as you can in advance, but for anyone who needs a bit more detail: It’s a comedic murder mystery with a cast of amazing character actors, directed by Rian Johnson (who made Looper and The Last Jedi). Daniel Craig steals scene after scene as a dubiously accented detective with a taste for scenery, and Johnson is careful to anticipate how the audience of a whodunit will be thinking about each character from scene to scene. Seriously, WTF are you doing still reading this? See it! See it! See it! Hitchcock would be proud.
On the second viewing, I was focused more on the foreshadowing of the ending I knew was coming, and less on the wonderful characters, but I am so excited for more Benoit Blanc adventures in the future. Give them to me now!
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2020 (So Far), Ranked
(no new additions this decade)
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