We’d Like To Spank The Academy | Crooked Media
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March 16, 2023
Positively Dreadful
We’d Like To Spank The Academy

In This Episode

Let’s talk about the movies. A bunch of factors have contributed to the shrinking of the movies and the Oscars in recent years. The film industry itself has changed. Streaming services have become fixtures in most households. COVID-19 happened. Social media wrecked everyone’s attention span and came to compete with every other kind of media for what was left of that attention span. Social media also tribalized the collective experience of movie watching and entertainment awards. It has tended to create multiple camps within which there’s only one right answer to questions like, Which movie was best? Which actor deserved to win? It doesn’t have to be like that! We think there’s a way to revive and modernize the way movies fit into our culture, including how people talk and disagree about them. We think we can make our collective experience of film a little more enjoyable, a little less like zero-sum warfare. Host Brian Beutler and Crooked Media Producers Kendra James and Olivia Martinez discuss the merits and flaws of last year’s hits and misses, from Top Gun: Maverick and M3GAN, to Babylon and Beast, and invent new award categories for these movies that better capture how fans relate to cinema in the modern era.







Brian Beutler: Hello and welcome to Positively Dreadful. With me your host, Brian Beutler. So Silicon Valley Bank collapsed. You probably heard and it got me and everyone else thinking about this concept called duration risk, something that everyone who’s bought a home with a fixed rate mortgage is sort of intuitively familiar with. But the idea is that fluctuations in. Just kidding. We’re going to talk about the movies. But before you skip over the show thinking it’s going to be an Oscars recap or criticism of the Motion Picture Academy for not recognizing the movies we happen to like the best. Rest easy. That’s not the idea. So what’s the idea? Here’s a slightly long winded explanation. I think a bunch of factors have contributed to the shrinking of the movies and the Oscars in recent years. The film industry itself has changed. Streaming services became fixtures in most households. COVID-19 happened. Social media wrecked everyone’s attention span and came to compete with every other kind of media for what was left of that attention span. But I think social media contributed in another pettier way by tribalizing the collective experience of movie watching and entertainment awards. It tends to create multiple camps within which there’s only one right answer to the question of whether this or that movie was good or bad. Which movie was best? Which actor deserved to win? And I think you can see that some of these problems are starting to dawn on the entertainment industry itself. We did a whole episode several months ago about how Top Gun Maverick had kind of cracked the code by making a movie with cross-cultural cross political appeal. This year’s Oscar nominees reflected both diversity and mass appeal. And lo and behold, Oscar viewership rose a bit. There were still traces of the bad recent trends where a bunch of people, for instance, got worked up about a Best Actress nomination without ever having seen or heard of her movie. And we might get to that in a bit. But to me, all of this suggests that reviving and modernizing the old ways people used to talk about and disagree about movies would help make our collective experience of film a little more enjoyable, a little less like zero sum warfare. You might say that the duration risk to the Academy Awards is its unwillingness to change along with people’s interests. What if entertainment awards in general were a little less mystical, a little less like Hunger Games, a little less like 10,000 members of the Academy behind the curtain and a little more like Siskel and Ebert or American Idol, where the different opinions and emotions that different movies or performances evoke are placed at the center of the decision making process regarding how awards are allocated. Get it all out in the open. So the idea that your favorite movie or star got done dirty will lose a lot of its power. I think that would be more fun than the Oscars. And I think it would make the Oscars themselves and the movies themselves better adapted to the stresses that are endangering them. So when my producer, Olivia Martinez, suggested we do an episode about the movies to coincide with the Oscars. This is what we came up with. We’d invent our own categories, and members of our select panel would each pick their own winners and defend their choices, complete if necessary, with spoilers, be warned. So naturally, I thought she should be a panelist and she thought Crooked Media’s executive producer for culture and entertainment, Kendra James should be the other panelists. So that’s our panel. Olivia. Kendra, are you ready to save the movies together? 


Kendra James: I mean, I don’t want to take credit for what Tom Cruise has already done [laughter] but I’m totally I’m here for it. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. Kendra, you took my joke. Exactly. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: We’re all standing on the shoulders of Tom Cruise, who’s standing on the shoulders of a giant because of how short he is. [laughter] Okay, on that note, Olivia, you’re kind of going to be our Sherpa, our guide. We have seven categories which will be revealed to you over the course of the episode, and hopefully we’re all prepared to talk about movies we think ought to be recognized in those categories and mix it up a bit. So you want to kick things off for us? 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. We’re going to start off with a category that Kendra actually suggested, which is the best mom in movies this year. Kendra, can we hear your winner first? 


Kendra James: Yes, absolutely. This is a movie that while it was nominated, I didn’t really feel like it got all of the nominations it deserved. And also because it didn’t get to come out in theaters this year, it didn’t get nearly the hype I wanted to see it have. And that is Disney Pixar’s Turning Red, which was my number one animated movie of the year, just because they couldn’t put Guillermo del Toro in front of it. Is one of the reasons I think it was overlooked. But yeah, while Everything Everywhere All at Once obviously had like a really beautiful mom and daughter relationship in it. I just personally, deeply related it to the story that was being told in Turning Red, which is for anyone who hasn’t seen it, a young girl growing up in Toronto. She is Chinese and her mom runs a little tourist attraction temple and she is growing up in the early aughts and she, like me, is obsessed with the celebrities around her, obsessed with boy bands. And she writes fan fiction and she, like, really devotes all of her time to this. And then, you know, a lot of mystical things happen and she ends up turning into a giant red panda when she gets stressed. It’s sort of like a metaphor for puberty. 


[clip from Turning Red]: Is everything okay? / I’m a gross red monster. Don’t look at me. Stay back. / This happened already? / What did you say?[laughter]


Kendra James: And I just really thought that the relationship that she has to work through with her mother in that in that film, because it’s an inherited trait, the turning into a red panda was just really beautiful and really well explored and done so in just like a really fun and accessible way. And I wish more people had been able to see it in theaters. 


Brian Beutler: I think I’m convinced that you made a better case for for your best mom than I did for mine. [laughed] Because for mine, I picked I picked, Tandi Wright, who played Ruth, who’s the mom in the movie Pearl. [laughter] I don’t know how many. I think Olivia we talked about Pearl maybe briefly. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: And I’m being a little tongue in cheek, but I’m going to I’m going to retcon her, her role as the sort of domineering, almost abusive mom who drives her daughter to be this insane person. I interpreted her as a hardworking immigrant mother who cares for her ailing husband and tries to teach her disturbed daughter the values of frugality and self-reliance. And for her trouble, her daughter lights her on fire and lets her burn to death. So she, I think, wins the the mom’s rock category in movies that I’ve seen. But now I need to watch to watch yours Kendra. 


Kendra James: I think, like a lot of people probably kind of avoided it because it did look like such a children’s movie. But I don’t know. The performance is really beautiful and the mom is played by Sandra Oh, and like, what more can you ask for from that? She’s at once beautifully, like, overbearing, doing a lot of like, stuffing food into her kids mouth, like stalking her from the from the playground. Like she’s like, hiding behind bushes and looking into her kids windows. I don’t know. I just thought it was so sweet and so wonderful, and I encourage everyone to go see it. 


Brian Beutler: Olivia? 


Kendra James: Or log on to Disney Plus as it is. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah, I thought it was a really fun, silly watch. And it also got, I think, a lot of criticism from conservatives for being about periods. But if you didn’t know that going in, I thought it was actually pretty subtle on period messaging, puberty messaging. And it was really just a beautiful story about like coming into your own and how hard that can be if you also, like, struggle with your relationship with your mom. Brian I also was going to be a little tongue in cheek and say my favorite mom of the year was The Monster in Barbarian. I think that movie, if nothing else— 


Kendra James: Wow. [laughter]


Olivia Martinez: —is a movie about motherhood and how it was really a reproductive justice issue. That person wanted to be a mom so bad and she couldn’t it and it drove her to do really evil gross things. But I’m going to have to go with the obvious one here. I know it’s gotten so many accolades already, but the best mom of the year was absolutely in Everything Everywhere All at Once. That mother daughter relationship was really powerful. And I think seeing the clips of it during the Oscars, too, it still hit home. And it’s probably the mother daughter relationship that stuck with me most throughout the year here. 


[clip from Everything Everywhere All At Once]: Here all we get are a few specks of time where any of this actually makes any sense. / Then I will cherish these few specks of time. 


Olivia Martinez: But I do have a question for the two of you. 


Brian Beutler: Okay. What’s that? 


Olivia Martinez: I feel like well Turning Red and Everything Everywhere All at Once, we’re really seeing a revival of stories about generational trauma. And I’m getting a little bit tired of it. Like, that was my only critique of Everything Everywhere All at Once, is I feel like those stories are kind of played out. But I’m wondering if I am just too steeped in it and how these stories about generational trauma are hitting both of you. 


Brian Beutler: I think media makes me consume a lot of just traumatic content in general. And so I should probably, like I think of movies now more as like escape from the world. And so to that end. I’m usually looking for movies that are light on trauma in general, generational or otherwise. But if I can sort of abstract myself from like my job and and what I want, what purpose I want movies to serve in my life. I don’t know. I had never really thought that the generational trauma thing had played out. And like talking about these movies, like, I grew up with a slightly overbearing immigrant mother. And I mean, it is like a defining thing that happened to me, that that was my upbringing. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: And so I kind of like when I see it reflected, that’s one of the things I liked about Everything Everywhere All at Once, was kind of seeing like, you know, it’s a stretch. Obviously, that’s a fictional movie [laughter] but like seeing echoes of my own mother in the main character. And those sort of lengths she would go to to try to, like, make sure that her children had good lives. So, yeah, I mean, I guess I had I had never really considered the question and I would have to think through in my head how many movies I’ve seen recently ish that that that wrestle with that theme. But I don’t instinctually think it’s too many. 


Kendra James: Yeah, I would agree. I think it’s also a matter of like who is getting to tell those stories because I like the only other, I would say like East Asian, the only yeah the only other East Asian focused story of generational trauma that I can think of off the top of my head portrayed on film would be Joy Luck, Joy Luck Club. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Kendra James: And that’s just like one that immediately comes to mind. Whereas in terms of traumas that affect people generationally, I can certainly think of several Black American movies like those are easy to list. And while I am a little bit tired of those, certainly I think it’s nice that other people are finally getting to tell these stories from a different perspective. 


Olivia Martinez: I you saying that makes me makes me realize something and some it’s maybe something that we can talk about later is that. You know, I think that one unintended consequence of what is generally a good thing of movies becoming more representative is that they’re also leaning more heavily, I think, on stereotypes. Like we just came up with two movies starring overbearing Asian mothers. Right? And I’m guessing that this is a a mini trend that Asian-American movie viewers might be getting sick and tired of. The way like, I sympathize with that. Is that. You know, despite all the Jewish actors, creators, business people in Hollywood, the way Jewish characters are often depicted in movies like lean into certain stereotypes that I find to be, you know, not like, not like, totally rootless, but but that’s basically the only way [laughter] Jewish characters, particular Jewish men are portrayed. And it gets grating after a while like. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: You don’t typically see a Jewish actor playing a Jewish character who’s athletic or brave. You know what I mean? And, you know, I would like to see more of that in the same way that I’m guessing if we had an Asian-American panelist on, they’d be like, I could I could use a little bit less of the, like parents who make me play a musical instrument and make my life hell during high school. 


Olivia Martinez: There we go. All right.


Kendra James: Yeah I mean that’s, I think—


Brian Beutler: Wait. Before you. Before. Before you brush us onto the next category. I did want to a couple of shout outs to runners up for best mom. 


Olivia Martinez: Of course. 


Brian Beutler: One is to Émilie Dequenne, who plays a mother in the French film Close, which I’m definitely going to talk about in a few minutes. Another is the father in Nope. [laughter] So he’s barely in the movie at all. But without spoiling anything else, I think his character manages to be this huge singular influence on his two very different children who are the actual stars of the movie. And then they deploy the lessons that they learn from their father to like to fend off alien invaders. So that’s pretty awesome parenting, even if he’s not technically a mom. 


Olivia Martinez: And talk about if we had a category for worst death in a movie. I think the father from Nope would take it. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah. [laughs]


Olivia Martinez: A quarter, a quarter related death. That one stuck with me for sure. Um, I—


Kendra James: Did you watch All Quiet on the Western Front? 


Olivia Martinez: No—


Brian Beutler: Not yet. 


Olivia Martinez: —I have not. 


Kendra James: Okay, well, if you want to watch four teenagers get brutally killed over the course of 2 hours. Have I got a movie for you? [laughter]


Brian Beutler: It’s on my list. I’m definitely going to watch it. I meant to watch it earlier and just have not gotten around it. Okay. 


Olivia Martinez: All right. We’re already one step closer to fixing the movies, but our next category is most overhyped. And I could kick us off with this one because I feel really strongly about it. My winner for most overhyped movie that I watched this year was Worst Person in the World. And I had so many friends come to me and say, I had to watch it. I had to go see it in theaters. It was beautiful. It was going to change my life. It made them rethink so much about themselves. And I watched it and it one just felt like a remake of 500 Days of Summer, which has already said it and said it well. And I don’t know how much 500 Days of Summer holds up, but it just felt like a 2022 version. And really, more than anything, it felt like a movie. The movie itself is about a woman who’s in a serious relationship, gets bored with her life and starts to feel a little bit existential about getting older and the life she’s chosen for herself. She meets a boy at a party. They flirt and she sort of gives up everything to be with this man, only to do the same thing over again once the relationship gets serious. And I think a lot of my friends read that as you know, being an adult comes with making like hard, big, serious, scary decisions. But more than anything, I felt like it was a movie about the trappings of monogamy and all of our problems could have been fixed if she just communicated with her partners. So I was less impressed. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: I, I really liked that movie. So I’m going to disqualify on the grounds that I think it came out in 2021. 


Olivia Martinez: I checked and the—


Brian Beutler: Oh you did? Okay. 


Olivia Martinez: —theatrical release date in the U.S. was February 2022. 


Brian Beutler: In the U.S. okay [laughter] because I’m pretty sure I got nominated for in the best picture, best foreign category in last year’s Oscars. 


Olivia Martinez: Did it really? 


Brian Beutler: I want to. I think so. I mean, we can fact check, it’s a podcast. No one’s going to if I’m wrong, like I will deny ever having said it. [laughter] I that movie stuck with me because. I thought that she was sort of like a metaphor for. Like a kind of person at a phase of their life. Like it’s not just her relationship that she is ambivalent about. It’s her career. It’s like where she fits in in the world. And I remember and this is like for me, a marker of how how good or bad I think a movie is often is that after watching it, the people that I saw it with without even like intending to ended up talking about it for hours and like peeling back layers that some of us didn’t even realize were there. So I, I like sort of fell into the hype without knowing when I saw it that it was this movie that was being hyped really hard. That said, if if I had seen it in 2022 when you saw it [laughter] and I was aware that, you know, there had been a lot of acclaim and a lot of people, then I you know, that has a way of influencing you, right? Like, if it doesn’t meet these extremely high expectations after they’ve already been set, then it kind of feels like maybe a disappointment or like its brilliance is sort of overstated in some ways, but. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: But yeah, it’s now been over a year since I saw it, so. So I can’t recall specific things about it that I loved spontaneously. I just. You know. I remember. I remember afterwards. Thinking that it was a really rich story. Do you want to do yours next, Kendra? 


Kendra James: Sure. So, yeah, for most overhyped, I chose a movie that, like maybe I don’t know if I overhyped it too much myself or if I just allowed myself to be swayed too much by by critics. But I was really I had really bought in to the hype behind Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. 


[clip from Babylon]: I think what we have here in Hollywood is high art. It’s— / Party time sparkle cocks. 


Kendra James: I was very, very, very excited for that movie. And within two minutes of sitting, of sitting down and the screen goes to black and we start the movie. I’m watching a man get shat on by an elephant for 90 seconds. And so that was really tough. That was tough. [laughter] And then— 


Brian Beutler: I mean it sounds great so far. Then what happens?


Kendra James: Right. Well, so basically Babylon is what you have to go into it understanding it is just Singin’ in the Rain. It is a three hour long Singin’ in the Rain. And that was also tough because not only is it Singin’ in the Rain, it directly lifts things that are iconic from Singin’ in the Rain. And then has Brad Pitt do them. I love Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt is no Gene Kelly. We’re talking—


Brian Beutler: Damn. [laughter]


Kendra James: We’re talking scenes. We’re talking lines. Like there are just direct lists and not like so it was bloated. It didn’t need to be 3 hours long. There were some very, very cool things about the movie, the opening scene. Basically, the movie follows this young ingénue played by Margot Robbie, who is getting typecast right now as Harley Quinn in different time periods [laughter] and I need her to find a new team. But so she basically she’s at this party in the Hollywood Hills. That scene again, I, I watched it and I was like, this movie’s going to be great. It’s a beautiful, just raucous party, lots of tracking shots, just frenetic energy all around. It’s set design beautifully. But then as we continue through the movie, he kind of like loses the thread. We’re following this young ingénue. We’re following this Mexican-American guy who is trying to get into the studio system and get higher within like an MGM counterpart, but it never fully comes together. And then suddenly at around the two and a half hour mark, Tobey Maguire shows up playing who is clearly someone who is clearly supposed to be an allegory for the devil to the point where they continue they go to another party and they just continue to descend further and further and further into the ground at Hollywood Hills, which is clearly supposed to be hell, didn’t need that. We needed none of this and I just yeah, this movie had been so hyped to me and then I was just really disappointed, not with really any of the performances, but with the craft of filmmaking. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: It’s so funny because when I was considering movies for this category, I didn’t include movies that were largely like, crapped on by the critics. [laughter] So I didn’t I didn’t consider Babylon for this category, but I’m probably going to come to Babylon’s defense—


Kendra James: Oh, no. 


Brian Beutler: —a little bit. 


Olivia Martinez: Oh wow. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: That’s good. We can revisit. We can revisit. [laughter] But I do I, I may be misremembering, you know, at the end they do this sort of montage celebrating the whole the grand sweep of Hollywood history. I mean, they they make the homage to Gene Kelly explicit, right? Like they include a long, you know, the iconic clip from Singin’ in the Rain—


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: —in there. I had not pieced together until you just told me that Brad Pitt was the stand in for Gene Kelly in this movie, because I don’t ooh, I may never have seen Singing in the rain. Mm.


Kendra James: You’re not the only person in this office, and you’re not the only Brian and this is, this is upsetting. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Ooh, but but now that you mention it and knowing, like, what my brain tells me, I know about Singin’ in the Rain, I totally, and Gene Kelly, I totally see it. My most overhyped movie of the year was Don’t Worry Darling. 


[clip from Don’t Worry Darling]: What’s actually happening? / Stop it Alice. / What if this place is dangerous what if— / Stop it. / No, Jack it’s okay. I’m curious to hear where she’s going with this. 


Brian Beutler: Okay. Approving nods in case anyone’s just listening. [laughter] It’s the kind of movie I think I’d normally be inclined to like. Right. It takes place in the California desert, which is where I grew up in a real midcentury modern housing development. That’s a real place that I actually spent a lot of time in, in real life, because a friend of mine lives there. His mother used to live there. The houses are super cool. It’s a psychological thriller, which is one of my favorite genres when it’s done well. It has a really good cast, and it was directed by Olivia Wilde, who who grew up in DC, where I live now, and she was the daughter of important journalists. She was raised in this apparently like hyper literate environment where I think Christopher Hitchens was used to babysit for her. She’s a talented actress in her own right. But. They definitely flooded, like they being the makers of this movie and the people behind it flooded the zone with hype and controversy and everything else for this movie that was just kind of it was like super blah, like just whatever, right? So I’m not like, see it if you want, but if you’re interested in something that’s kind of thematically similar to what the movie is actually about, I’m going to violate the creed of our pro movies episode and suggest that you don’t see it and just watch Severance on streaming instead and it will fulfill your hopes for for what the movie is supposed to be about much better.


Kendra James: Once we got to the point where we were debating whether or not Harry Styles had spit on Chris Pine like that actually really turned me off of the movie so much that I just didn’t go out to theaters to see it. Like, I’m going to watch it eventually, but I was just so tired by that point because we’d heard so much about it. And then by the time we got to that point the, the curve had sort of started coming down and we already knew we were starting to get a sense that this was not going to be a good movie because enough people had seen it by that point. 


Olivia Martinez: That’s so funny because this hype had the exact opposite effect on like me versus you two. I read every single bit of gossip about that movie that I could find. I texted my friends about it in real time. We bought tickets to see it opening day, and as soon as we sat down and it started playing, I was like, oh, this is truly a terrible movie, but I’m having—


Brian Beutler: Yeah. 


Olivia Martinez: —the time of my life because I know just how invested Olivia Wilde was and just how much she shot herself in her own foot. [laughter] 


Brian Beutler: You just loved watching her face plant. Metaphorically. [laughter] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I. I was, like, on vacation for my redacted birthday, and, and I read I think it was the Vanity Fair cover story interview with her. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: And like, she seems like very self-possessed and smart and also maybe a little bit out of touch. [laughter] And there was—


Olivia Martinez: Oh so second wave feminist, too, like it’s just so cringe. 


Kendra James: She did go to Andover. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: And there was a whole sub controversy with Shia LaBeouf. Where— 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm


Brian Beutler: —that I can’t even exactly remember he was alleged to have behaved badly on the set. But then it was also alleged that maybe she just wanted him off the movie so that she could get Chris Pine, who was then her boyfriend. Right. Am I getting this wrong? 


Olivia Martinez: Oh, Harry Styles. 


Brian Beutler: [overlapping voices] Harry Styles, Harry Styles she wanted Harry Styles not Chris Pine into the movie because what if she loved him now and then that was like intermixed with the the drama between her and Jason Sudeikis. It was just a it was just a mess of promotion and it became hard to tell what was real and what was Kabuki. So anyway, I was I was hoping that the hype was actually about something real, and I just didn’t find anything real there. Um, so that’s my that’s my entry, and I’m glad to have found consensus among the three of us, I think. [laughter] I think for the first category. 




Olivia Martinez: All right. Moving on to the next one. This was suggested by our fellow producer, Leo. And we’re going to do best gay movie of the year. And you can interpret that however you want. Anyone want to go first? 


Kendra James: Mine will be short because for gayest movie of the year, I did pick Don’t Worry Darling. Not because not for any of the content within the movie. Because as I just said, I did not see this movie, but for just for the people in my friend group who cared about this movie versus the people in my friend group who did not care about this movie. You could also, I guess, ascribe that to the podcast that we work on that covered this movie [laughter] excessively versus the podcast that we worked on that did not cover this movie excessively. [laughter] I think this really scratched an itch with a lot of the LGBTQ plus people in my life, and that is that’s, that is my sole reason for putting this as gayest movie of the year. 


Olivia Martinez: I think we should change the name of this category to just, for the gays. Doesn’t even need to have a gay character. [laughter] Nothing about it needs to be gay. Just was this delivering the theatrics that the gay community wants.


Kendra James: Theatrics is a very good word for it. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: I have two selections I couldn’t decide, but one of them I picked for similar reasons. That one’s M3GAN, which isn’t about the gay or queer experience at all, but which I found out after after watching it that it’s a huge hit with LGBT audiences. And I think the explanation I read for that that’s most compelling to me is it just extremely campy. [laughter] The LGBT people in my life last year were all lined up to see House of Gucci, which was also very campy. 


Kendra James: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: But unlike M3GAN, it was very bad. [laughter] But M3GAN is is great. It’s smart and funny and exciting and kind of scary. And it’s very current, right? Unlike House of Gucci. So that’s one. On a higher brow level. I alluded to this earlier. I think if I had to pick between the two, I’d give the award to that French movie Close. And that may just be a proximity thing because I saw it Friday night, like two days before the Oscars. And to try to explain without spoilers, it’s about these two young boys, prepubescent boys who are extremely close friends. They’re so close that some of their classmates assume they’re gay and the movie makes it genuinely ambiguous. But the but the assumption from their friends and how people look at them seems to strain the relationship between these two boys. And then maybe as a result of all of that, something happens which takes the movie in a very different direction. But so among the movie’s many layers is this very humane portrayal of childhood and friendship, and then the erosion of friendship and the stigma that still attaches to gay children, even though children today are are generally more tolerant than they were when I was a kid or generations back. It’s a really sad movie if anyone’s listening and, you know, inclined to watch it like I highly recommend it, but also be aware that it’s not it’s not like you’re feeling like you want to watch something light and fun. It’s not for that. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: I don’t have either of you two seen it. 


Olivia Martinez: I have not—


Kendra James: No. I haven’t.


Olivia Martinez: —but it’s popping up over and over. 


Brian Beutler: It got nominated, and that’s why it was on my radar. And I’m. I’m glad it got nominated. If only for that reason like, I I didn’t watch all of the other nominees or nominated films, so I don’t. I can’t say if it deserved to win over what did, but it’s just it’s really good. 


Olivia Martinez: And I’m going to have to agree with Brian. My gayest movie of the year was also M3GAN. 


[clip from M3GAN]: This is Megan. / Hi Megan, I’m Katie. / It’s nice to meet you, Katie. Do you want to hang out? 


Olivia Martinez: I found M3GAN to be so gay that I, a queer person, rented out an AMC movie theater for my birthday and invited every queer person I knew to come see the movie. And they yelled, hooted and hollered through the entire thing. [laughter] And two things, particularly besides it being so campy, made it especially queer for me. One was that dance, spoiler alert. The dance scene where Megan in the hallway is doing like a slow motion dance to titanium. 


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm. 


Olivia Martinez: One of the gayest things I’ve seen on film, just perfect. [laughter] We’re seeing that movie just for that. And the second one is, I do think they queer coded Allison Williams in the very first scene, she’s wearing a flannel. She’s dressed a little bit queer. You’re not quite sure. And she makes many references to Tinder and to dating, but never once references a man. And I was waiting for them to just give us a shot of her Tinder, where she’s swiping on men and women or just a woman’s on the screen. But they did leave things to the imagination there. 


Brian Beutler: So I had thought that, too, when I was watching. And then I thought that the Tinder thing was dispositive. It meant that she was supposed to be straight. But I guess I like I got hitched and stuff before like dating apps were really a thing. [laughter] So I’m aware of Tinder and of Grindr, and like, my gay male friends are on Grindr and my straight friends are on Tinder, and I don’t really know where other people sort of fit into that ecosystem. So when when that scene happens and she’s like her, that’s whatever picks up the phone and sees her Tinder profile, I’m like, okay, she’s like a single straight woman who isn’t going to get married because she’s so addicted to her work or whatever. I thought that was the trope they were going for. But that’s a good point. I might have just like I’m too old to really understand what’s going on. [laughter] 


Kendra James: No, I think Allison Williams is kind of like carving out a little niche for herself as like a horror camp icon. And that’s like, very, very fun. And she’s doing it not only in the movies that she’s choosing to be in, but also like that on the promotional tours. I mean, for M3GAN, one of my favorite profiles of her was she took, I want to say it was The Cut to the American Girl Doll Cafe. Like, as a promotion for M3GAN and made them do the interview there was like the doll was at the table being served by the waiters as well. So I just I think that she is very aware of where she stands on that and like possibly how she’s also being coded in movies and is playing into that. 


Brian Beutler: So I think another thing that just occurs to me now is that she the thing that coded her in my head as a straight woman was her role in Girls. So I may have brought that like, oh, this is Allison Williams, the character from Girls to this movie. And and that might have affected my reasoning abilities or something like that. But yeah, I mean, my recollection at least is that her character in Girls is pretty straight. 


Kendra James: Well, I mean, to be fair, I feel like Girls really demonstrates her range. She’s not really, you know, she’s not stretching in the characters that she’s playing necessarily. [laughter]


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. All right. This next one is most au courant, which is just basically the most politically and culturally relevant. 


Brian Beutler: So my nominees, non victorious nominees, are Top Gun Maverick. I thought, you know, I mentioned this in the intro, like it sort of deftly navigated all these clashing political and cultural currents that are wrecking the country right now. And the movie they made was thus able to appeal to young cosmopolitan wokesters like like us and to like rah rah rah explosion war nationalist types as well. Are you guys did you guys watch The Simpsons at all growing up? Are you familiar with it? 


Kendra James: Simpsons is one of my big cultural blind spots. 


Brian Beutler: Okay, so you—


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: —won’t know this. Okay, so there’s these alien characters, Kang and Kodos, and in one famous episode, they disguised themselves as humans and run for president. And one of them is sort of grasping to appeal to a crowd. And he says abortions for all. And so half the half the audience boos. And then he says, okay, abortions for non and the other half of the audience boos. And so he waits a bit and then he says, all right. Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others. [laughter] And then everyone applauds right? So that’s Top Gun Maverick to me is like they managed to mush [laughter] together things that I think probably the three of us like and things that three people who we would disagree with about everything in politics would also like. And now everyone’s claiming it as their own, and it made a bazillion dollars at the box office as a result. It brought America together, but it didn’t win my my award. Second nominee was The Menu because it’s super fun. But I thought it was also a pretty good send up of foodie culture in particular, and American class divides generally. And then I nominated M3GAN because what’s more au courant than our fears that A.I. robots are going to kill all of us. But I gave my award to Tár, which I think it’s it’s that movie’s open to, like a million interpretations, and I’ve read at least half a million of them. 


[clip from Tár]: You want to dance the mask. You must service the composer. 


Brian Beutler: But mine is that it’s. It’s this exploration of how movements like #MeToo expose not just like specific predators, but but a culture where we sort of unthinkingly ascribe genius to random artists and innovators who are mostly just really good at selling themselves as being geniuses. Right? And then because everyone’s deemed these people geniuses, we wrestle when they do bad things unnecessarily with whether they should be forgiven for the bad things that they did. Because if we don’t forgive them and we banish them right, then the world is going to lose the benefit of their genius. And I think against the backdrop of of Elon Musk exposing himself as this sort of red pilled mediocrity and like Sam Bankman-Fried and I could go on. Right. It’s extremely timely to be reminded that that, like the trappings of genius aren’t the same as as actual genius. And I think this character, Lydia Tár, if you watch the movie closely. Like she tells us she’s a genius and she does events with Adam Gopnik, who fawns over her and she sort of mastered the idioms of, of like highbrow thinking. And so everyone just assume she’s a genius. But the movie actually gives you no indication that she’s innovative in any way, just as she’s like a bully and a predator who cloaks all that in esoteric language and and stuff. And so you don’t actually get to see what makes her so supposedly smart. I think the moral of the story is actually she’s not smart. She just fooled everyone. And then she used that genius, to, to shield herself for accountability for the bad things that she did. And that, I think, is super smart and definitely au courant. 


Olivia Martinez: Wow. I love that take. 


Kendra James: Yeah, yeah, I feel like I can segue a little bit nicely off of that in terms of who we value in society, who is labeled to be like you’re saying, to be a genius and at what we, how cancel culture works and does not work. I went a little wild with my [laughter] my pick for this. And I said and I was leaning more on the cultural side here at the political or cultural question. And I actually gave this to Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore. 


[clip from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore]: The world as we know it is coming undone. / Grindelwald’s pulling it apart with hate. / If we’re to defeat him, you’ll have to trust me. 


Kendra James: Yeah. And this again, this actually is not to do with the content of the movie. For me, it is about this movie when it came out. And honestly, whenever J.K. Rowling speaks or does anything becomes sort of the symbol. She is a person who the three of us obviously fundamentally probably disagree with a lot of the stuff that she is talking about in terms of of trans the rights that trans people should have in her home country of the UK and worldwide, because her views are starting to spread. So I just think the fact that she still has a movie like Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore coming out, no matter how much she was scrubbed from the project, she did not write on the project. She is still making money from the project. It really just sort of crystallizes the fact that we still live in a society where, despite the fact that people want to talk about how we’re getting canceled and how people are getting canceled, it’s impossible to come back for that. It really is possible to come back from that, especially when you consider that this movie came out and it made $95 million in America, i.e., it did not make back its budget. And this whole series has been really plagued with issues of cancellation beyond J.K. Rowling’s involvement. It started out with Johnny Depp as a lead role, and they had to get rid of him to much like much, it seemed to J.K. Rowling’s much in duress on her part. She put out statements saying that she wanted him to be continued involved in the movie. This one also featured Ezra Miller, who, you know, was going through problems of their own at the time and was labeled as like people were asking, why are we still letting this person make movies? Why are we not forcing them to face up and like and deal with the situations that they have caused in their lives and needs, in their life and needs to face justice for. So I just think that this series really like emblemizes the fact that cancel culture does not truly exist in America, and that’s something that we’re debating every single day. And so that’s why I gave it to this, to Fantastic Beasts. 


Olivia Martinez: Wow, the way—


Brian Beutler: I take it, I—


Olivia Martinez: —put Tár and Fantastic Beasts in conversation with each other [laughter] is something because my takeaway—


Brian Beutler: I mean, there’s something there. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. My take away from Tár, I watched it last night because, Brian, I know you were a big fan and I wanted to be ready and I actually loved it much more than I thought I would. But what I really loved is no matter how much Lydia Tár thought like modern day, the desire to be oppressed, as she calls it, by the robots who are just like cogs in this machine of social justice. No matter what you think, no matter how stupid someone like her might think it is, it still came for her that if you do something wrong, the forces and markets and businesses and the industry, it will always catch up to you if you’re actually a bad person. And Brian, it’s interesting, like you brought up Elon Musk, like now we know like he is paying for his own idiocy and but then, Kendra, you just immediately disproved that by showing that a movie like Fantastic Beasts and all its flaws can still be made. And I’m just sitting here trying to grapple with like, what this all means together. 


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: Well, I think that there’s a there’s a synthesis. I mean, like in Tár right, she she she really falls. She tries to climb her way back and like the the the climactic scene reveals how far she’s fallen. And I don’t want to spoil it in the event that someone, someone listening here goes and watches it on on our recommendation. But like in the U.S. I think that what a lot of people who complain about cancel culture in the U.S. are complaining about is not that they are banished for eternity from the public stage. It’s that where they get their accolades from in the public domain, changes from where they want to be accepted, which is like among decent people with access to like mainstream power and money and resources. And instead, they’re now playing to an audience of like red pilled freaks like Elon Musk. [laughter] Right. You could still make tons of money doing that. And like Elon Musk has blown many billions of dollars on Twitter, but it’s still like he has bazillions of fans. But you can sense his own bitterness at the fact that, like the people he wishes would worship at his feet don’t. And so I think that these two things can be like these two lines of analysis are actually not mutually exclusive. Like I don’t think that that Kendra’s analysis of of what’s it called? Dumble— Secrets of Dumbledore? 


Kendra James: Yeah I think so. [laughter] I, no one saw it.


Brian Beutler: And your analysis of Tár are not are not are not actually contradictory. 


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Kendra James: I think J.K. Rowling definitely plays into that as well. Like she not only does she want to be accepted by like the mainstream media and the places that are going to talk about her books, whether they’re Harry Potter books or the other series that she was writing. She kind of needs the liberal side for like to be aligned around her when it comes to the Harry Potter franchise. Because if we go back 20 years, it was the conservatives and like the ultra Christians who were like, we got to ban these books. They’re teaching our children. I don’t know, Latin. No, they meant witchcraft— 


Olivia Martinez: Witchcraft. Yeah. [laughter] 


Kendra James: But like truly it was just Latin. [laughter] So it’s I mean, she really actually does need liberals if this franchise is going to continue to mean anything. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah, a conversation about how liberals are so annoying about Harry Potter could be a whole other thing too. 


Kendra James: Right. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Olivia, was Tár your pick as well, or were you just um, like—


Olivia Martinez: No, I had a different pick and it’s—


Brian Beutler: All right, let’s hear it. 


Olivia Martinez: —it’s come up already. But mine was. Nope. Um, I also culturally, I’m so here for this sort of, like, western revival. I’m so grateful for a Lil Nas X and Old Town Road for, like, bringing this into the mainstream. And I think it’s so fun. And it was really fun to watch Nope deal with western themes in like such an artistic way and also a historical way. And I found it really cool to learn about Black cowboys in Hollywood and like the whole history of Black cowboys and how that’s been erased, especially as a film lover. That was all new to me, but also it felt like very politically relevant and I felt really similar themes to Get Out where it was talking a lot about like how culturally we believe Black women and there is a lot of like hype around believing Black women, but also a lot of that is for show too. And it was really cool to watch that from a Black woman’s perspective. And here, just like the burden of proof that she felt she needed to find and the great lengths she was going just to have anyone believe her that this horrible thing was happening and that we should be weary of the danger. I thought it was a really powerful movie, and I also really loved Daniel Kaluuya’s mantra throughout the whole film. There’s work to do, there’s work to do. It just felt very spiritual and it felt like it was it was speaking to what was happening just at such a deep level. It was a movie that I thought about a lot after and just also a fun, wild watch. And we’re so lucky we get to see Jordan Peele movies in real time. Like what an amazing time that we’re getting to live through in cinema. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah, I obviously also loved it. And like, I believe he’s batting a thousand with his movies now. I only didn’t like ponder Nope for this category because I’d mentioned it earlier and also because I think when people think of like Jordan Peele and politically au courant movies, Get Out is the one that comes to mind first and foremost. And like this has such a sweep, including a backward looking sweep, that it didn’t really occur to me as like a contender the way, like A.I. robots are going to kill us did. [laughter] But yeah, it’s. Even though there is an element of robot like things trying to kill you in that movie. But yeah, fantastic movie. Like one of these movies I’ll rewatch many times over the years. 


Kendra James: Of the three Peele movies, do you have rankings? 


Brian Beutler: Of of the. Yes, I would say Get Out, Nope and Us. 


Kendra James: I think that’s where I yeah I think that’s where I am. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah. 


Olivia Martinez: I agree. But I would say Us absolutely was the scariest. Like I still get a little bit scared thinking—


Kendra James: Yes. 


Olivia Martinez: —about us sometimes and my tether coming for me. [music plays] All right. Next category, the next one is most unfairly maligned. And maybe we could do this one a little quickly, because I have a feeling we’ve kind of touched on a lot of the ones that have been maligned this year. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah, I teased. It’s mine, so maybe I should just do it real quick. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Babylon. [laughter] I thought Babylon was, like, the perfect victim of the like of the trends that I talked about in the intro. So it’s super long, which means watching it requires hours of concentration. And then also it was ripe to get ganged up on in this sort of meme ish, very online way. And I think that happened to some extent. Like it became fun to shit all over Babylon. I watched it in the theaters, over the over the holiday break when I had time to detox from social media a bit. So my attention span was, I think, a little longer than normal. And what I saw in it was a move like a, something that, like few directors would have the guts to make, particularly in this day and age when people are like an hour and a half max, right? I thought that the pacing was incredible. You know, it didn’t feel like a three hour movie to me as I was watching it. I thought that a lot of the acting was great. But like what? I think that movie is about at bottom, it’s sort of about the theme of this episode about how the film industry has been disrupted and has to figure out how to adapt to new times. Sort of why we’re doing a show about the movies in the age of declining Oscars and blah blah, blah, right? And so they smuggled in a real story about how the advent of talking in cinema completely blew up the established order. And they and they smuggled in by turning into this funny, dramatic thriller type thing about this ambitious filmmaker and a reckless, spoiled film star that he loved. And like I cop to a lot of the criticisms others have made and that you made Kendra like it could have been better, it could have been shorter, it could’ve been more focused. But I was impressed in the moment while I was watching it. And I think that like the fact that. I sat through 3 hours and didn’t think that it was felt that long is pretty remarkable for any movie in this day and age. And it closes with this hopeful montage about how moviemaking has been threatened before by forces of modernity or change or technological progress or whatever, and then figures out a way to adapt for the times. And so I’m kind of hoping that’s what happens for movies now. And if it does, and maybe people will look back on Babylon and and admit that it was better than they gave it credit for in the moment. 


Kendra James: Here’s what I’ll give you. The soundtrack was robbed. [laughter] The soundtrack did has immediately gone into like my top five pantheon of soundtracks. It’s very good. 


Brian Beutler: It is very good. 


Olivia Martinez: I might have to watch Babylon. No, I refuse. Once I saw how long it was, I was like, there’s no way this is happening. 


Brian Beutler: See, see? [laughter] It’s just people saw that three hour and then it was it was over for that movie. They were like 3 hours. I’m going to hate it no matter what. 


Olivia Martinez: And I love Margot Robbie. All right I’m here in defense of Top Gun. 


[clip from Top Gun: Maverick]: Here we go, in three, two, one.


Olivia Martinez: And obviously Top Gun on a large scale was very popular. It was very successful. Everyone loved it. But so many people in my life, like Capital L liberals like too progressive to watch the quote unquote “military propaganda” go see the movie. It rocks, the planes rock, Tom Cruise rocks. It’s just about drinking beers and flying planes and I can’t recommend it enough. It made me feel just so hyped. Yes, it did make me wonder if being in the military would be really fun. But it’s a great watch and also a lot of my friends brought up, they just assume that it’s going to be like about like some like racist enemy, some racist trope about like the bad guys were trying to get the bad guy in the movie is literally like a bomb in a hole and like the middle of like a mountain, like they don’t know—


Brian Beutler: Yeah they never name—


Kendra James: Yep. 


Olivia Martinez: I was waiting for it and to see, like, what cultural or political tension it was speaking to. And they just left it out. And I thought that was really smart and it allowed you to sort of like put that wall down. Just enjoy the planes flying it’s super fun. Like just just give it a chance. 


Brian Beutler: My my cynical read on why they didn’t name the enemy, though, is that they’re like, if we want to, you know, have the people the 1.2 billion people who live in China—[laughter]


Olivia Martinez: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: Like be able to see—


Kendra James: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: —this movie. We can’t we can’t be like, oh, it’s the Chinese government, that we’re, we’re going to war with. 


Kendra James: Oh, absolutely. There’s a reason Tom Cruise is America’s greatest export. 


Olivia Martinez: [laughs] Yeah. And also a very shrewd one. Like he, he, if anyone had suggested, why don’t we just like, you know, like we did with the original Top Gun? Like, actually name the enemy. Like he’s like no, no, no. We want to sell to the enemy. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. [laughs] Kendra, what was yours? 


Brian Beutler: Kendra what’d you pick? 


Kendra James: Yes. Mine was a trio of films and it wasn’t so much they were maligned in a way, but also, like, they just didn’t get enough hype, I thought. And those movies were the remake of Father of The Bride, which if you have not seen it, it is delightful. It’s Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan as the parents and then like a bunch of younger actors as the kids. It is really delightful. It is the only movie that is or the only piece of media, even that has ever made Miami look appealing to me [laughter] and not like a hellhole. [laughter] I truly I’ve never been able to get into that city. The performances were really lovely. It’s another movie that had just a really wonderful parental relationships. There is a divorce happening in the background. I won’t spoil for people how it ends up, but it’s a it is. It was really refreshing to see children, adult children having to navigate their relationships with their parents through a divorce, which I think is something that you don’t often see, and it’s something that I had to do. And so I like to I like to see that reflected on screen. And it was just a really early, enjoyable 90 minute watch. And then my other two are also in that rom com genre, Shotgun Wedding and Ticket to Paradise. Two movies like Ticket to Paradise of the three, I think got the biggest hype because it did have George Clooney and Julia Roberts and they were doing their movie star thing. They’re two of the three movie stars we have left [laughter] the other being Tom Cruise. And they were really doing their best to promote that. But still, it was a movie that really just kind of came and went, didn’t get a lot of attention. Billie Lourd gave another wonderful off the wall performance in that movie. And then with Shotgun Wedding, it’s your it’s what you’re getting when you get J.Lo in a movie, when you get Jennifer Coolidge in a movie, you put him on an island and you just let them go. Would it have made more sense if Armie Hammer had still been able to be the love interest instead of casting Josh Duhamel, who was only like four years younger than Jennifer Coolidge, who was supposed to be his mother. Yes, but that did not. Yes, that is that is that happens in this movie. They had to get rid of Armie Hammer for obvious reasons. And Josh Duhamel came in to save it.


Brian Beutler: Has anyone seen Armie Hammer and Josh Duhamel in the same room together at the same time? [laughter] I’m not trying to create conspiracy theories here, but I think they’re the same person. [laughter]


Kendra James: But yeah, I would just encourage everyone to go watch that trio of rom coms. If we want rom coms back, we have to go stream them. 


Brian Beutler: I am I’m going to watch them because I haven’t seen any of them, but I’ve been meaning to watch at least two of those. So I’m sold. And that means that the studios will get my money and make more better movies. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: What’s next, Olivia. 


Olivia Martinez: Our next one is best new artist, and I’m happy to go first. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah, go first. 


Olivia Martinez: One of my favorite watches this year was Barbarian, Brian. I know you also loved Barbarian. Kendra. Have you seen it? 


Kendra James: I have not seen Barbarian. 


Olivia Martinez: Oof. 


Kendra James: My husband tried, he tried so hard.


Brian Beutler: Yeah I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it for any of these categories. But it is great. 


Olivia Martinez: It is. It is terrifying. And also just such a smart movie. Not really spoilers, but the movie is told from two different perspectives. You sort of see like two people enter this horrifying scenario. You see the first person go and then halfway through it changes and it changes to Justin Long, who is this like famous, maybe like a musician. I forget like what he’s famous for, but he’s undergoing like a #MeToo accusation so similar, like fall from grace. He hideouts in a house that ends up having like, something horrible going wrong in it. And it was just a really fun watch to watch two people go through the same experience like violent, gruesome experience. But the first time you feel bad for the character and then the second time you’re like, yeah, I get the bad guy. Like, that guy sucks. [laughter] He deserves to be, like, mauled by a mutant woman. It made me think a lot and made me think about how I like my own gaze for horror movies. And I think it was actually like the first big project of the director whose name is Zach Cregger. I’m really excited to hear what he does next. I’m still terrified to like, be alone in my house at night because of Barbarian. [laughter] I watched it as my first big solo hang with my brother in law and just a really weird, uncomfortable watch. Both of us were like, why is this what we picked to do together? But I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it. 


Brian Beutler: I dig it. And I agree. It’s an excellent choice. 


Kendra James: Have you seen Skinamarink? It feels like you would enjoy Skinamarink.


Olivia Martinez: I have not yet. I’m adding it to my list. I’m getting a lot of recs from this conversation. 


Olivia Martinez: I’ve not even heard of that movie. 


Kendra James: It it is a horror movie that left everyone I know truly just shaken to their core. 


Brian Beutler: All right. That’s like you’re singing my tune. 


Kendra James: Yeah. Two kids wake up in a house, their parents are gone. All the lights are off. They can’t turn the lights on or off. And then all the doors and windows have disappeared. And you go from there. 


Brian Beutler: All right. That’s a good premise. 


Olivia Martinez: Oh yikes. Sounds terrifying. 


Brian Beutler: But that’s not that’s not your that’s not that’s not even a movie from this year, that’s not your pick, right? 


Kendra James: No, no, that’s not my pick. My pick for best new artist asterisk, to America, are the trio from RRR, that is director S.S. Rajamouli and then the two stars of the film N. T. Rama Rao Jr. And Ram Charan. 


[clip from RRR]: [speaking in Telugu]


Kendra James: They are definitely not new to the field in India I believe they are actually all Nepo babies or what you would [laughter] consider nep babies over there because as it’s been explained to me by a bunch of people who are more in the know, that is kind of just how the Indian film industry works. But I saw RRR under duress, and I cannot say that it was my favorite movie of the year, but I certainly understand why it appealed so massively to audiences across the world and specifically in America. I’ve been describing it to people as the closest thing I have seen to a Fast and the Furious movie, but also a period piece. And so I don’t like the Fast and the Furious. That is not my ministry because I don’t like I don’t like it. If we’re going to do superheroes, make them superheroes. I don’t want to have to believe that, like the Rock can actually lift a tank. If he’s going to do that, I need him to have powers, and that’s kind of what you’re getting in RRR it’s about two, it’s about the real the true story of a friendship between two revolutionaries in I believe, I want to say it’s the late 1800s. The costume design is really not good in the movie, so it was hard for me to tell where they were. But they, yeah. So it’s about two friends who are trying to take down the British army in India at the time. And it is ah, it is truly just an action palooza where we’re we’re running over tigers, we are jumping off bridges without bungee cords and crossing over to the other side. It is really well put together and well done. It just wasn’t for me. But I loved Naatu Naatu and I got that, so I got that out of it and I was happy with that. But I think that a lot of the mass audience in America would agree with me that these are the three, the three best newcomers of the year. 


Brian Beutler: All right. Yeah. I feel like I just need to Kendra like, listen to everything that you said in this episode and just start taking notes [laughter] so that I have a list of movies to watch for the next year or so, I also had to stretch the category a tiny bit because this is not her first role. But I also think that if the Oscars were to do something like best new artist, they couldn’t literally be like, you’ve never done anything before in the movies. It would have to be like, you know, your first leading role, your first like first movie with a budget over X or something like that. And so I’m giving the award to Andrea Riseborough, who is the star of To Leslie. 


[clip from To Leslie]: Windows are dirty— / Everyone in town, tries to avoid me like the plague, and my boy doesn’t want to see me he ain’t never speak to me again. / Try to be good— 


Kendra James: Did you see the movie? 


Brian Beutler: I did. Yeah. I’m. [laughter] Because of what I’m. Yeah. The thing that we’re all thinking of. I disqualified her from the best moms category [laughter] for obvious reasons or reasons that will be obvious if you see the movie. But I think that the like, I thought it was a dumb controversy over whether she, like, campaigned for her nomination. 


Kendra James: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: But the controversy itself underscores to me how valuable it would be to have a category at the actual Oscars for breakout roles or breakout directors or whatever. Because I watched the movie because of the controversy. And I totally understand why people who campaigned for her, whatever thought she deserved recognition. At the same time, I also agree that she she wasn’t the best actress of the year and that we’ve seen acting very similar to hers in this role. But in other movies, like to me, it evoked Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos. But still, like, that’s you know, I think Charlize Theron won an Oscar for that role or was at least nominated. So like it’s fitting that she got a nomination, I think also fitting that she didn’t win. So I guess that means that everything ended justly or justly, at least from my perspective. But she was excellent. The movie is quite good. Also pretty sad. More levity, more fun in it than there was in like in Close, but still pretty sad. And I’m glad that the people who campaigned for her and got her in trouble or I don’t even really understand why it’s controversial [laughter] or what the supposed sin was. But I’m glad they did it because it brought the movie to my attention. The controversy brought the movie to my attention. I watched it and I thought it was really good. 


Kendra James: I did really appreciate that when the controversy happened, we did not hear a lot from her and we also didn’t really see her showing up on like a lot of red carpets, at events. I don’t obviously, I don’t know whether she was invited to a lot of these events or not, but she didn’t really, like try to stir the pot. And maybe that’s just like the Britishness in her. [laughter] She didn’t pull a Melissa Leo say, you know, rent out an ad in Variety for herself. She really played it low key. And like even the dress that she wore on the Oscars red carpet, it was it was all very low key. And I just I think that that was the right move. And I was really impressed that she did that. 


Brian Beutler: I have friends who also watched it and they, like, started the movie, like drinking a cocktail while watching. And then I was like, I’m going to set this cocktail down and I’m going to drink a non alcoholic beverage because the the themes of the movie are making me not want to enjoy it with an alcoholic drink. I mean, it didn’t like hit me that hard and acutely, but it really is like a wake up call makes it seem like I have a problem, but I just mean like [laughter] it’s vivid. It’s super vivid—


Olivia Martinez: Interesting. 


Brian Beutler: —in depicting like, her problem and like relative to the other people in her life who are also fairly heavy drinkers but have not lost complete control of their lives. And and like her process of trying to climb her way back is like a I thought it was a pretty remarkable acting job. She did a really good job. 


Olivia Martinez: I’ll check it out. 


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Another another one to do to do to do with with eyes wide open. Like when when you’re—


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: —you’re not like, just wanting to have some fun or whatever. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. [laughs] All right. Our last one, the grand finale, our most memorable film of the year. And I can kick us off. Well, first off, I want to really give an honorable mention to Banshees of Inisherin. I was actually bummed to see it not win. I don’t think it won. Maybe it won one award at the Oscars. And I think in a good year, it stood or a different year. It stood a strong chance of winning a lot of awards. But it’s just a movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once, you know, only comes around like once in a decade. But I just want to give Banshees its shine. It was a really beautiful movie. I had a falling out with my highs— My best friends since middle school, so we’ve been best friends for like 15 years. And this year we had a big falling out. I happened to be the desperate friend that was being played by Colin Farrell and it was so actually cathartic to watch two grown old Irish men play out literally the exact same dynamic that me and my like like two queer Mexican women in Los Angeles are doing too. 


[clip from The Banshees of Inisherin]: I just don’t like you no more. / But you liked me yesterday. 


Olivia Martinez: It just reminded you that, like the struggle of friendship and losing a friend is universal. And. And I’m also glad that she didn’t threaten to cut off any of her fingers. But I really do have to just shout out Everything Everywhere All at Once. I do think we are so lucky to have gotten to see that movie in real time. To get to see it in a theater was just such a fun experience. I remember the moment I first saw the trailer in a theater and I was like obsessed immediately. I immediately looked up the Daniels and watched their music videos. I watched Swiss Army Man and I had so much hype for that movie, and it was so cool to just see it deliver. And it inspired me to watch so many more wuxia movies and martial arts movies and I really feel like it opened my mind to so many more movies and I just cannot wait to see what they do next. 


Brian Beutler: You didn’t kill your friends dog, did you? 


Olivia Martinez: No [laughs] I did not. 


Brian Beutler: Have you considered? 


Olivia Martinez: No. Luckily, she doesn’t have a dog, so it didn’t even cross my mind. [laughter] It’s not on the table. 


Kendra James: My most memorable of the year. While all due to Everything Everywhere All at Once. I am so happy that it won everything. It deserved it. It was an amazing movie that I will think about for a really long time and often rewatch. But for me it’s the movie that one of my best friends flew across the country to see with me together, as we do for all Tom Cruise movies. And it was Top Gun. Top Gun. God, I had been waiting for this movie for so long, and I’m just such I’m I’m a huge Tom Cruise fan. Not like in his personal life, but in the craft that he brings to movies. I think, as I said, he is one of our three last remaining movie stars. And Top Gun was just so well put together, especially when you consider just the lengths that they had to go through when it comes to the craft of having made that movie. They had those actors like in the planes, which of course they couldn’t fly, which was probably a good thing. A, because those are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment, but also because they were doing their own cinematography while they were in the plane. They had cameras. Oh, yeah. So the actors—


Olivia Martinez: Wow. 


Kendra James: —there was the real pilot was in front and doing all of that. And then the actors in the back not only had to act and do all the reaction shots and say their lines that were necessary, they were also controlling all of the cameras that were mounted around the cockpit and making sure that the shots that needed to be that needed to be gotten were achieved. So when you consider all of that, just like the craft that goes into the making of the movie and then the acting itself, I mean, it gave us like gave us Tom Cruise again, I’m not arguing that he needed a best actor nomination at all for this role, but I actually wouldn’t have been surprised had he gotten one. Val Kilmer coming back made me cry in the theater. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Kendra James: That last sequence, which this movie was not directed by Christopher McQuarrie, but Chris, I think Christopher McQuarrie, who has been the director on all of the Mission Impossible movies since five, I believe he came you could tell that he had heavily touched the third act of Top Gun, which is part of what made it such a wonderfully kinetic like action sequence. At the end of that movie, two men who were sitting next to my friend and I, they stood up. They were father and son. They stood up. There were tears streaming down their face. And then they hugged. And it was clear that these were not two men who often hug. And so just to see like that, this movie was like destroying toxic masculinity in front of my eyes. [laughter] It was just a really wonderful experience. I went back multiple times because I didn’t get to see Tom, the Tom Cruise the movies are back featurette the first time, so I had to go back and see it so that I could see that with Nicole Kidman. Then I had to go to the screening where there are four walls of screens where they had actually shot more footage for the different walls. It was just such an overall wonderful experience and a wonderfully put together movie that I, it will until Dead Reckoning Part One be my most memorable experience of the past calendar year. 


Brian Beutler: That’s awesome. Yeah. I thought that the ending too the like, which was a like, intentional callback to the ending of the original. I enjoyed in part because I enjoyed the Tom— who whoever’s decision to cast Jon Hamm. I think for the first time as the as the unlikable jerk. 


Kendra James: Mm hmm. [both speaking]


Brian Beutler: Like I love Jon Hamm also. So I’m not this is not like criticism of him, but he’s always the, like, charming, smooth character. Right. And having him play somebody that we’re rooting against because we’re rooting for Maverick, obviously was like a novel twist on, I think what is like he’s becoming typecast as so yes, to end the suspense, I also picked Top Gun Maverick for most memorable. And I believe that brings us consensus on two of the categories. M3GAN, for best gay movie [laughter] and now and now Top Gun for most memorable. 


Olivia Martinez: Yep. Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: I like I know that anytime I happen upon this movie, midway through whatever from here to eternity, I’m going to watch watch it to the end. And I think I’m also just going to remember the impact it had on people’s sense of what’s going to happen in the movies. Right. Like there were jokes at the Oscars six months later about how Tom Cruise saved the movies with this movie. And I think that reflects like the pretty commonly held angst about whether we’re going to have movie theaters and movies in five, ten years. And this was Tom Cruise’s way of saying, if I have anything to say about it, we will. Right. And actually, that was one thing. Like I agree with you, Olivia, in your assessment of it in the earlier category, that it’s just fun, like and that’s the main reason to see it. But it was an allegory, I think, for that. Right. Like if you think of the characters as like different forces surrounding the movie, Tom Cruise’s—


Olivia Martinez: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: —old school cinema. And like he’s the proven way and his way works. And it’s better than whatever technological nightmare is being positioned to replace it. And he’s going to be there to remind you of it, right. Like time. Time is like coming for him in a way, but he like he’s going to have one last stand to prove that the old way is better and we should not throw it out. Right. And I thought that that was like a really sweet and intelligent touch. Right. And they they didn’t have to be so intentional about it. But it is pretty clear when you see it that that’s what they did. 


Kendra James: This has been reported out by either Variety or Hollywood Reporter. But I was working at Paramount when the movie was supposed to come out originally because it was it was delayed via the pandemic. And there was a point where Bob Bakish, the CEO of ViacomCBS, as it was known at the time, he was they released A Quiet Place II on streaming, and their plan was also to release Top Gun Maverick on streaming. And at the time, because people knew that I was so into Tom Cruise, like I would get Slack messages [laughter] and like little little crumbs of information from people being like, Tom’s calling Bob. Like Tom is calling him to be like, there is no way in hell that you are releasing this movie on streaming. And in my mind and this was even before, like obviously before I had seen the film, I was thinking to myself, if Bob Bakish thinks that it is a good idea to release this on streaming and not wait for theaters, he this that should be disqualifying as a job of a CEO as like a major a major studio. And so apparently he got into this fight like the sort of back and forth and Tom Cruise ultimately won, which is why we got to watch this movie in theaters. And I think that we can all agree that the sort of the technol— The technological fight that you’re talking about streamer versus traditional release that obviously worked out for this movie. 


Brian Beutler: And it played out in real time behind the scenes. I didn’t even—


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: —I didn’t know that. Kendra, non ironic suggestion, I would I would absolutely read like a two to 300 page book on the story of [laughter] Top Gun Maverick with all these— 


Kendra James: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: —themes woven into it, because it’s fascinating and it’s like it’s almost like a thriller in its own right. Like Top Gun Maverick could have come out in 2021 on Apple TV and made some, you know, relatively piddly amount of money. And critics would’ve been like, oh, that was actually pretty good. But it needed the big screen or whatever. And unfortunately, COVID and like Tom Cruise is fighting to make sure that that doesn’t happen. And I don’t really actually know how the story goes, but like you seem to and it’s [laughter] it’s great. And I mean, there’s just got to be so much there and like so much investment on the part of so many people over the course of like 30 years? More? 


Kendra James: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: That like—


Olivia Martinez: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: —it’s almost like a minor miracle that it worked out as well as it did in the end. I do want to say since Top Gun Maverick has had more than its due [laughter] not just on our show today, but for the last six months. My honorable mention is a movie called Violent Night, which is a comedy horror Christmas movie. 


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: So it’s like a send up of the Christmas movie genre, it’s like Die Hard meets Home Alone meets Silent Night, Deadly Night. And for me, it’s like an instant classic of the ironic holiday movie genre. And I think I’m going to do viewings of that movie every Christmas season from now until I’m old and cranky. And so it’s definitely memorable [laughter] just in the most literal sense of the word. And also, I just if anyone’s listening and hasn’t seen it, it’s just a blast.


Olivia Martinez: I loved it—


Brian Beutler: Even if it’s not Christmas time. 


Olivia Martinez: —so much. And I knew it would be corny—


Brian Beutler: It was so good. 


Olivia Martinez: I also feel like it kind of pushed the genre forward and just how violent it was and it was so creative in the ways it killed so many people. This isn’t really a spoiler, but [laughter] there’s one scene with ice skates where he’s like beheading people with ice skate blades, and I was continuously surprised. And that’s not something you can save for, just like a movie. You’re going into being like, oh, whatever. This will like make me laugh. 


Brian Beutler: It’s also au courant. Like it’s it’s like it’s like a diverse cast. The the like analog to Kevin McCallister if we’re doing the Home Alone comparison is—


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: —it’s like a young Black girl who has these very tender touching moments. Even though—


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. 


Brian Beutler: —the movie is so schlocky, it’s so hilariously schlocky [laughter] but it’s just better than it has any business being. And so, yes, and unless like, you know, sort of self-aware gore like that is not your thing, I recommend it unreservedly. Loved it. And again, like counting down the days till next December so I can have an excuse to fire it up again. 


Olivia Martinez: All right. Well, that concludes our own version of the movie awards, what should we call it, the 2022. 


Brian Beutler: The Positively Dreadful Oscars. [laughter]


Olivia Martinez: There we go. We somehow made it all the way through without talking about The Whale. And I know specifically—


Kendra James: Oh. 


Olivia Martinez: —Brian, you were rooting for Brendan Fraser. Kendra You were rooting for Ben, Brendan Fraser. Any final Whale takes?


Kendra James: So on The Whale, I was I was very much rooting for Brendan Fraser, but it was one of those Oscars where I was not rooting for him for that role. I was kind of rooting for him just for his history. And you know what he has given Hollywood and what Hollywood, frankly, has taken from him as well. And so that was really why I was so in support of that movie, because when it comes down to it, I actually didn’t, the movie was fine. I actually didn’t have a huge issue with it. It was a perfectly fine, very sad movie. I think it suffered from a lot of issues that play to film adoptions, suffer from where they just don’t always translate quite, quite correctly. I think a lot about I thought a lot about fences while I was watching The Whale and just as another example of a film that like—


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Kendra James: —the close ups were like the close ups were too close. The um, the sort of like the acting was almost too big because it was supposed—


Brian Beutler: Yes. 


Kendra James: —to be done in this cavernous theatrical space. And we weren’t getting that from the film. And mostly I found it very interesting during the lead up to the Oscars about how at least I saw very little of the I don’t really put this burden on the cast necessarily, but of the creative team behind the movie addressing any of the criticisms that you were getting from very well known people like, say, like Roxane Gay, for instance. 


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm. 


Kendra James: I felt like a lot of the complaints from fat people about putting Brendan Fraser in this suit and having him play this role were never actually engaged with in what felt like a genuine way. 


Olivia Martinez: Oh yeah, that’s a great point. I totally agree on the play to movie pipeline. Like it felt so overacted to me and that really more than anything was taking me out of it. I was like, I actually think I would have been a little more accepting if I was sitting and watching this as a play. But in a movie theater, it just wasn’t hitting in the way that I needed it to. 


Brian Beutler: I. I thought he was great. I thought I thought the movie was really good. And I mean, like so Roxane Gay’s criticism of it in The New York Times. I mean, that was like a devastating critique. And she is like a really powerful writer. And. But she does acknowledge in her criticism that, like people’s subjective experiences of cinema are are different and that the themes that certain movies bring to bear are going to hurt some people where other people find them enriching, eye opening or whatever. And so I feel like I’m on the other side of that line that Roxane drew. And, and so in that spirit, like, I don’t want to like, diminish anyone’s, you know, who saw the movie and found it to be hurtful or offensive or anything like that. And my interpretation of it is it’s colored by the fact that I’m a I’m a pretty big fan of Darren Aronofsky’s and I’m pretty familiar with his his oeuvre—


Olivia Martinez: Mm hmm. 


Brian Beutler: —so I know that a recurring theme of his films is how decent and in some of the movies like remarkable characters lose their battles with their obsessions. And I like this movie even better than those, because he brings that basic ethos, I guess, to a character like his tragic flaws stem from like, not from being like a professional wrestler or a ballet star, whatever, but just a normal guy with normal flaws who gets dealt a raw hand in life and then is unable to recover from it. And like at some point, Olivia and I have talked about doing an episode here about the problem with audiences, because, of course I understand that it’s not just people like us who are going to see that movie. It’s a bunch of shallow minded people who are going to see it, too, and they’re going to have some cruel laughs at at the expense of the overweight guy. But if you don’t watch it in that light, like you see that he’s the best person in his life and he’s devoted the last days of his life to trying to help those people find some enlightenment. And that’s beautiful. And it like it made me love him as a character. 


Olivia Martinez: Hmm. 


Brian Beutler: And you don’t get that unless he is struggling in some way. And I mean, I’m not like a typically like a a crier. But I cried in that movie. I think it was in the scene where he’s like finally clearing the air with his ex-wife. And I just thought it was like, I don’t know. Probably it’s a mix of being biased by being an Aronofsky fan and also like, oh, if a movie like stirred that emotion in me from somewhere. It must be really good. And like, yes, I do think it probably evoked some cruelty in some people and it definitely evoked cruelty in the characters surrounding him. 


Olivia Martinez: Yes. 


Brian Beutler: But that part of the movie rang true for me because people in the world are cruel, right? Like, not everyone, obviously, but cruelty is is like something all kinds of people have to deal with. And then you see that like they’re the ones who’ve lost their humanity and not him. So that’s why, like, it’s still like it hit me in a very deep place and it still does. And yeah, doesn’t mean I’m not wrong. [laughter]


Olivia Martinez: I think you said it great. 


Brian Beutler: Thanks, Olivia. Thanks, Kendra. This was a lot of fun. 


Olivia Martinez: Yeah. Thanks for having us. [music plays]


Brian Beutler: Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez. Our producer and star is Olivia Martinez and our associate producer is Emma Illick-Frank. Evan Sutton mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.