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🎬 The Empire Strikes Back, The Goonies, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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ESJ's Movie Project

November 15 · Issue #39 · View online
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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I am one of the 10 million people (literally) who signed up for Disney+ this week, so expect more reviews of the Disney movies I’ve never seen to start trickling into this newsletter. Y'all ready for some Sleeping Beauty hot takes?
In all seriousness, I watched the first episode of the Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian on day one and my timing was perfect: As regular readers know, I recently watched my way through Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, & The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), much of which The Mandalorian is riffing on, within the Star Wars universe. I have a few quibbles about the show, mostly in how frequently it beats you over the head with “remember this?” references to the franchise (Life Day!) but am very curious to see where it goes.
Anyway, now that we’re done talking about Star Wars, let’s talk about Star Wars …
👋 The Empire Strikes Back
Pictured: The least friendly snow dogs you will ever meet.
Pictured: The least friendly snow dogs you will ever meet.
Before revisiting THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, I thought that it was pretty much a toss-up whether it was my favorite Star Wars movie, or the original “A New Hope" (which I rewatched back in July). But now that it’s fresh in my memory, never mind! This is definitely the best one. This movie is the platonic ideal of what Star Wars media should aspire to be: Exciting, but also slow enough to be thought-provoking; otherworldly, but also universally relatable; scary, but also funny. The action set pieces are jaw-dropping — particularly the Millennium Falcon’s asteroid chase and the climactic lightsaber battle — and the introduction of Yoda cements a concept, more timidly implied in the first movie, that the Force is more spiritual than just a superpower. I’m hoping to revisit all of the Star Wars films before The Rise of Skywalker comes out in December, and I’ll be doing it in “machete order,“ so the next one you’ll see in this newsletter is … (deep breath) … The Phantom Menace.
🐟 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Pictured: "Look, I know it's not the best spot for a picnic, but hey — no ants."
Pictured: "Look, I know it's not the best spot for a picnic, but hey — no ants."
Although several of the film’s shots are a visual treat, the story and characters of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN didn’t work for me. Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are set up to have their relationship blocked by twin obstacles — one has a mental fixation on practicality, and the other carries a torch for a lover who gets shipped to Afghanistan — but both of these impediments are quickly dropped and unsatisfyingly resolved. I was also befuddled by the character of Sheikh Muhammad, who brings Blunt and McGregor’s characters together. At first, I thought the sheikh’s Western-values-meets-Eastern-mysticism act was a put-on, and a deeper layer would be revealed as the plot progressed. But what you see with him is what you get, and his indifference for his non-Western-values-loving neighbors is paternalistically shrugged off. The only thing other than the visuals that I really liked was Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of a hard-charging press liaison for the British Prime Minister, but that just made me want to watch In the Loop again.
☠️ The Goonies
Pictured: "Oh no, a bad review above us. Everyone be quiet."
Pictured: "Oh no, a bad review above us. Everyone be quiet."
I suspect the only people who can enjoy THE GOONIES are the ones who saw it for the first time when they as young as the main characters. Rewatching it this week for the first time in over a decade, I was reminded of what a glorious parade of wish fulfillment it is for “boyish” (for lack of a better word) children: There’s hidden treasure, a booby-trapped temple, a notorious crime family, a friendly giant and a water slide that leads to a pirate ship. Clearly Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus had fun writing this one, but I have to admit that as an adult I found some of the young actors’ performances grating and the depiction of the two girls who get wrapped up in the boys’ adventure problematically superficial, in a way that never occurred to me as a kid. Still, I have to admire the audacity of the filmmakers for getting so much swearing and innuendo into a children’s movie, and for not shying away from the idea that real adult problems trickle down to profoundly affect kids, 99% of whom have no access to a pirate ship.
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(no new additions this week)

  1. Parasite
  2. Booksmart
  3. The Farewell
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk
  5. Us
  6. Free Solo
  7. Avengers: Endgame
  8. The Favourite
  9. Amazing Grace
  10. Long Shot
  11. The Wife
  12. The Art of Self-Defense
  13. Toy Story 4
  14. Jojo Rabbit
  15. Shoplifters
  16. Hustlers
  17. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  18. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  19. Harriet
  20. Apollo 11
  21. Zombieland: Double Tap
  22. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  23. Aladdin
  24. The Peanut Butter Falcon
  25. Slut in a Good Way
  26. Green Book
  27. Cold War
  28. Official Secrets
  29. Ready or Not
  30. Always Be My Maybe
  31. Rocketman
  32. The Lighthouse
  33. Roma
  34. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  35. Ad Astra
  36. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  37. On the Basis of Sex
  38. Shazam!
  39. Judy
  40. The Lion King
  41. Downton Abbey
  42. Fighting With My Family
  43. They Shall Not Grow Old
  44. Yesterday
  45. Mary Poppins Returns
  46. Captain Marvel
  47. Minding the Gap
  48. Motherless Brooklyn
  49. Tolkien
  50. The Biggest Little Farm
  51. Alita: Battle Angel
  52. The Dead Don’t Die
  53. The Great Hack
  54. Stan & Ollie
  55. Vice
  56. Bohemian Rhapsody
  57. Aquaman

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