The Oscars

The Oscars are tonight! Alright, fine, I shouldn't have used an exclamation point there, but for reasons beyond understanding, I do actually enjoy these awards. I mean, of my top 10 movies of the year, only three are nominated for Best Picture... and this is a pretty good year for that metric. But any and all awards processes are subject to bias and flaws. Plus, it seems to me that everyone really loves to whine about this stuff, and the Oscars are prime whinging territory. Ultimately, I like movies, and tonight's a night where I will drink alcohol, make fun of celebrities, and root for movies. I admit that this is a pretty boring stance, but so is yours. I don't think I'll ever top my intro to the Oscars from a few years ago:
The funny thing about the Academy Awards is that your opinion about them is pretty boring. You think the Oscars are just a cynical circle jerk of self-satisfied Hollywood elites? Boring! You're outraged at [insert snub here]? Super fucking boring! You're genuinely excited about seeing films receive the recognition they deserve? You are both naive and boring! But the one thing that unites us all is the abject hatred of the short films categories. I think we can all agree on that.
Oh, and I've heard a lot of people talking about short films this year. In an approving manner! Up is down, cats and dogs, living together, etc... Anyway, I thought last year's ceremony would be mildly more interesting due to the age of Trump, but it mostly fell flat on that front. This year? Well, we're still in the age of Trump, and now we've got #MeToo, TimesUp, and gun control agitation, which I feel like will have to crop up in some way.

Again, I will be tying one on and making fun of celebrities on Twitter @mciocco (or, more likely, since I'm pretty boring, I'll be retweeting funnier people than myself). Back in the before time, the long long ago, I used to do this thing called "liveblogging". For the uninitiated, back before Social Media was a thing, we used our stone knives and bearskins to update our blog every 2 minutes and we'd just sit there with a million browser tabs open, hitting F5 to see what people were saying. Twitter makes it much easier and more fun, so I started doing that a while back. I also like to make predictions, which are listed below. It's all vaguely political (and by that I mean, internal Academy politics, not necessarily national politics, though again, there will be some bleed over this year), but it's still fun. If, for some ungodly reason, you want to read a decade plus' worth of previous predictions and commentary on the Oscars, check them out here: [2017] | [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]
  • Best Picture: The Shape of Water has been the odds on favorite for a while, but Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been charging ahead, despite being problematical with respect to race. But we all know that Hollywood isn't racist, right? Get Out also seems like a likely challenger, but horror movies rarely do well and Shape is still the safest bet at this point. After that, I can't see anything mounting a real challenge. Dunkirk and Darkest Hour will split their vote, Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird should just be happy to be nominated, and The Post is just the default Spielberg, Streep, Hanks show that always gets nominated, but gets taken for granted and never wins. Phantom Thread is also a movie. I've only seen 6 of these, but it's a decent enough crop, if not exactly the sort of thing that gets the normals going.
  • Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water. This one is much more likely than the Best Picture category. In recent years, the Picture/Director awards have been split, but I suspect that could reverse this year. Christopher Nolan probably should win, but he tends to leave the Academy cold. Paul Thomas Anderson will win this someday, but not today. Greta Gerwig should be happy for being nominated (though on a serious note, I do think she's underrated as a director) and is only really there to inoculate the Oscars from the likes of Natalie Portman throwing shade (as she did in the Golden Globes). Similarly, Jordan Peele is another first time director, but horror movies don't tend to be honored here.
  • Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Pretty much a lock. It's actually a pretty strong category this year, and I'd honestly not be very disappointed if pretty much anyone won this category. But it's still McDormand's to lose at this point.
  • Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. Also pretty much a lock. The rest of the candidates are weak sauce, and Oldman has the sorta lifetime achievement thing going on here, so he's pretty much got it.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya. This award could go anywhere, and I don't really have any strong feelings on the matter. The Academy might want to reward Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf, maybe? After that, I don't really know.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project. Lots of people thought this should have been nominated for a Best Picture award, so that snub might put Dafoe over the top. Or not, as Sam Rockwell might take it for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But as I understand it, his character is very problematical!? And the Academy totes isn't racist, you guys!
  • Best Original Screenplay: Get Out. The Academy totes isn't racist, you guys! Or they are, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will win. Or something. It's more or less between those two.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me by Your Name. This year's gay romance will need some love, and I'm betting it goes here. Could very well go to Mudbound (because the Academy totes isn't racist, you guys!) but I found that script to be meandering at best. Then again, that movie seems to get a lot of love from the Academy, and this is a good place to reward it...
  • Film Editing: Dunkirk. I mean, it's definitely the most visibly "edited" movie of the year, and I do love that aspect of it, but I suppose there's a chance that someone might think it confusing and give it to one of the other nominees. It might be nice to see Baby Driver take this, but I think it goes to Dunkirk.
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049. After many losses, it's finally Roger's year. I hope. These awards often don't go the way I think, but Deakins has the buzz due to the lifetime achievement factor.
  • Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Makeup: Darkest Hour. Fat suit.
  • Costumes: Phantom Thread. It's literally about a fashion designer. Seems valid.
  • Musical Score: The Shape of Water
  • Best Song: "Remember Me" from Coco
  • Best Animated Film: Coco. Never go in against Pixar when an Oscar is on the line.
  • Best Documentary: Faces Places
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Square
Phew. There are some missing categories, but these are the ones I pick each year and I don't feel like figuring out which categories I neglected (though I do know that two of them are short film categories, which we've already established are hot garb). Again, follow me on Twitter @mciocco for inane commentary throughout the ceremony.
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Favorite Films of 2017

We continue our recap of the year in movies with a top 10 list, only a month and half late! But I snuck it in before the Oscars, so there is that. This marks the twelfth year I've posted a top ten, which is getting interesting. A dozen years! For reference, previous top 10s are here: [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

Coming up with a cohesive thematic summary of an entire year's worth of movies is something of a fool's errand, but I'm pretty dumb, so let's give it a shot. The big standout for me this year is the rise of streaming exclusives, especially on Netflix. Now, only one of these will actually show up on my top 10, but one reason for my larger-than-normal list of movies watched this year is the large increase in accessibility represented by streaming services. This isn't an unalloyed good, of course, and it would have been great to have seen some of these films on a big screen with an enthusiastic crowd, but on the other hand, there's no way that something like Okja, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), or Mudbound would have hit a wide release. Much more likely is that they would hit the arthouses in a few select markets and then make their way to video/streaming. There's a fair chance I wouldn't have seen any of them at all, had they gone through the traditional distribution process. In any case, the quality of these offerings is decidedly mixed, ranging from artsy to commercial and everywhere inbetween. But it does feel like some progress in reducing the stigma of "direct to streaming" has been made, if only baby steps.

The other theme that stands out is a continuation of last year's decline of the blockbuster, which franchise fatigue settling in on several usually reliable series (i.e. Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc..) Of course, the major exception to this is Marvel, which continues to enjoy near-universal success. Oddly, it seems all attempts to copy Marvel's model are falling flat (The Mummy and Dark Universe), indicating that perhaps Marvel's special sauce is not quite so easily replicated. In a heartening trend, those of us who value new and interesting films scored a modest string of success throughout the year, including the likes of Get Out, Baby Driver, and Dunkirk, all of which seemed to exceed expectations, even if they weren't billion-dollar franchise makers. Hope springs eternal, though it's difficult to get to excited, as there were plenty of films that should have garnered an audience but somehow didn't manage to find one (i.e. Logan Lucky).

I suppose I should add a third theme that I have noticed whilst compiling the below list. Many of these films make moral claims that could be interpreted in multiple ways. As they made my list, I think you can guess that I'm using more generous interpretations (or valuing the thought provoking nature of certain moral dilemmas). One of ways that I feel like I diverge from some (particularly persnickety) critics is that I'm often willing to give movies some latitude, even when I would normally disagree with something it's saying. The world would be a boring place if we all valued and agreed on the same things, not the least of which because I wouldn't like most movies because I could probably find something to disagree with, if I were so inclined to look for it.

As of this moment, I have seen 87 movies that could be considered a 2017 release. While this represents an increase over the past few years and is certainly significantly higher than your average moviegoer, it's still a much smaller number than your typical critic, so keep that in mind. Standard disclaimers apply, but rather than enumerating those boring caveats, let's just get to the party, pal:

Top 10 Movies of 2017
* In roughly reverse order
  • Molly's Game - I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure I buy this movie's moral claims, but it does so in a way that provokes thought, which is admirable enough. However, this Aaron Sorkin written and directed film is just so damn entertaining that it's hard to beat. It's got some of Sorkin's not-so-great ticks (i.e. daddy issues, psychologists, etc...), which is why it ultimately tumbles to the bottom of the top 10 (and on another day, might have been swapped out with one of the honorable mentions below), but again the fun value is high enough that it still deserves recognition.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Lady Bird - Greta Gerwig's directorial debut (she also provided the script) is a very well-observed slice of life. This is pretty emphatically the sort of thing I don't gravitate towards, so I was surprised by how much I was taken with this film. Funny, moving, and while I have never been a teenage girl, it does feel authentic. The pacing is brisk and the film is short and sweet, which helps tremendously. Great performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, but don't sleep on pretty much all of the supporting cast, like Tracy Letts and Beanie Feldstein. Not the sort of thing I'd expect on my list and it could easily have fallen into the honorable mentions, but then, here we are!
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore - Quirky with a dry wit and some helpings of explosive violence, Macon Blair's directorial debut (he also wrote the script) feels a bit like a Coen brothers pastiche. It also shares a kinship with Blair's collaborations with Jeremy Saulnier, but it's great to see that he can do it on his own. Or, well, along with an excellent cast and crew. I mean, lead performances by Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood are certainly helping for sure. This is the sole direct-to-Netflix film to make the list, and it's a well-deserved win.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]
  • Colossal - Nacho Vigalondo's "Godzilla meets Lost in Translation" story is another film whose socially relevant moral claims provoke thought (to put it kindly, but that shouldn't be a surprise since I'm a fan of this movie), but again, this is a lot of fun, and it explores its fantastical premise in thoughtful and clever ways.
    Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis lead a pretty great ensemble, and Vigalondo's nervous energy permeates.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Bad Genius - A straight-A high school student starts an exam-cheating business... and this is somehow the best heist film of 2017 (and there was plenty of competition). Visually energetic and confident in a way that recalls Edgar Wright, this movie is tense, clever, and tight, well-paced with multiple bare-knuckled sequences of suspense. The ending mixes its morals up a bit, but again, it does so in a thought provoking and entertaining way. Still, it's a movie about cheating on tests, and it's the best caper of the year.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]
  • Wind River - Writer/Director Taylor Sheridan is quickly becoming a master of a sort of Midwestern Noir. A clear-eye murder mystery tinged with grief and drama, this is a film that recalls Sheridan's Hell or High Water without feeling like he's in a rut. This carves out its own territory, and what a frigid, gripping territory it has found. Sheridan surrounds and encapsulates his relevant social themes without feeling didactic, and while you could drown in the isolation and tension, it's not a slog at all. Recommended!
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Your Name - This anime feature starts as a sorta rote body swapping drama... and then it turns into something special. I won't describe further than that, but it's a clever script that feints in one direction, lulls you into a sense of security as it executes that part very well, and then pulls the rug out from under you. Entertaining and heartfelt.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]
  • The Big Sick - Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani wrote the semi-autobiographical script for this delightful romantic comedy, and the result is genuinely touching. Another movie that manages to be socially relevant without feeling preachy or didactic, it hits many challenging notes perfectly. It's a movie with a 9/11 joke that actually works, for crying out loud.
    The Big Sick
    Funny, romantic, and quite unlike your typical romantic comedy.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]
  • Get Out - A supremely entertaining horror flick on its own, but infused with social relevance in a way that not only doesn't feel preachy, but which actually leverages our expectations to superb effect. Well balanced and calibrated, it's an impressive debut from Jordan Peele, who I think we can expect great things from going forward.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]
  • Dunkirk - Christopher Nolan's stirring WWII epic is propulsively paced, harrowing, and gorgeously photographed. It's not a conventional crowd-pleaser, what with its distinct lack of dialog and plot, not to mention it's puzzle-like temporal structure, but it's so well executed that it still manages to come across as rousing and interesting.
    It's a film that has only grown in my estimation over time, and any initial qualms have faded away. Just an exceptional film.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Capsule Review]
Honorable Mention
* In alphabetical order
  • Atomic Blonde - The strongest action flick of the year, with several notable set pieces that are absolutely spectacular. A little heavy on the needle drops and maybe too convoluted, but still very entertaining and thrilling, and Charlize Theron can kick a lot of ass.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]
  • Baby Driver - Perhaps the most striking opening sequence of a film all year, an incredibly well orchestrated blend of music and action, the rest of the film unfortunately can't quite live up to that promise. It still ends up being one of the most energetic and entertaining films of the year, even if there are a few plot points that don't feel entirely earned.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Capsule Review]
  • Better Watch Out - It starts out as a rote home invasion horror flick, but then morphs into something more. It's a movie that has only grown in my estimation over time, and it really is a lot of fun, with a great villain, a neat premise, and intense thrills that build throughout. Well worth checking out for horror fanatics.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Punishingly brutal flick from S. Craig Zahler and starring a surprisingly badass Vince Vaughn (who actually pulls it off), this is perhaps a bit overlong and padded, but makes up for it by punctuating the plot with gruesome action throughout. This is not finely calibrated martial arts execution here; the eponymous "brawl" is much more apt for the fighting that goes on here. Well worth a watch, if you can stomach it.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Capsule Review]
  • The Girl With All The Gifts - I'm not much of a zombie fan, but I must admit that I found myself taken with this particular example. Sure, it hits a lot of the standard beats, but it puts enough of a spin on the tropes to feel worthwhile. Quite entertaining, will good child performances and a solid ending (something a lot of zombie movies lack).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]
  • I, Tonya - This bitter black comedy will make you feel sympathy for one of the 90s great real-life villains, Tonya Harding. A riveting lead performance from Margot Robbie anchors the film, and there's a lot here that I wasn't really aware of back in the 90s when this was happening. It's a pretty crazy story in real life, which obviously makes for a good movie.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • It: Chapter One - This partial adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel gets a lot of things right. Amazing child performances certainly help, not to mention Bill Skarsgård's frightening take on Pennywise the clown. It perhaps leans a bit too heavily on the CGI jump scares, it nevertheless manages to get under your skin, evoking some primal fears from time to time.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Review]
  • Logan - A fitting finale for Hugh Jackman's long run as Wolverine, this is one of the more distinctive takes on the superhero film that you're likely to see. No power boxes with beams to the sky here, though it hits plenty of the tropes at the same time. I wasn't as taken with this as a lot of folks, but I can see why it's garnered so much praise.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Logan Lucky - Steven Soderberg returns to the big screen with an intricate hillbilly heist film that deserved to be seen by more people, this very nearly made it onto the top ten. Clever, intricate, and a little byzantine, this was among the most entertaining flicks of the year and a great time at the theater. It's on Amazon prime right now, so do yourself a favor and go watch it.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Post - Unlike my refrain in several of the top ten entries above, this is a movie that is socially relevant while being quite preachy and didactic. That being said, we take Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks for granted these days, and they turn in a mainstream media propaganda film about the publication of classified Pentagon Papers into high drama. Sure, we'll throw them some perfunctory awards nominations, but no one expects them to win. Then again, while this is an entertaining and dramatic film, it is a bit too much of a puff piece to really win. Still, I was quite taken with the film, and it's well worth a watch.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Spider Man: Homecoming - Notable for being the third big-screen incarnation of the character in only the past decade, this one sets itself apart by not actually being an origin story, while still introducing us to a distinct take on the character. Smaller scale than your typical Marvel flick and featuring perhaps the best villain in the MCU so far (*ahem* at least, until last weekend), the stakes are no less involving. Once again, very entertaining and fun.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]
  • Split - M. Night Shyamalan's resurgence continues unabated, this is perhaps lacking in some social graces, but is nonetheless a pretty interesting and almost lurid tale about a man with split personality. It ends well too, and features an unexpected twist ending that works well in the film proper, but implies a sequel that I can't help but feel some apprehension about. Will Shyamalan's current resurgence end here? Time will tell.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi - This apparently divisive entry into Star Wars canon has cleared the decks and allowed future filmmakers some breathing room to do new and interesting things. The strongest parts of the film are Rey, Kylo, and Luke's story, which pretty much carries the day. Poe and Leia maintain course, while Finn and Rose's story falls flat. I'm still a fan, and for the first time in a long time, I've no idea what to expect next, which I count as a good thing.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Review]
  • Thor: Ragnarok - I've always been fonder of the Thor movies than most everyone else, but this one is certainly an improvement over the previous two entries in the series. It does feel a bit disjointed, with the bulk of the film feeling like a bit of a diversion from the main plot, but then, that trip to a weird trash planet with gladiator battles is clearly the most fun and entertaining part of the film, while the overarching plot feels a bit standard, despite Cate Blanchett's best efforts (alas, she simply wasn't given enough to work with... yet.)
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]
  • The Villainess - Another film whose spectacular opening action sequence sets the bar so high that the rest of the film can't quite measure up. Not for a lack of trying (there's another motorcycle chase later in the film that comes close), but then, the film does fall back onto a weird melodrama plot that doesn't quite fit. And yet, it's still kinda fascinating, and so different from what I'm used to that I very nearly put this on the top ten...
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
The Quantum Jury Prize
Awarded to films that exist only in a quantum superposition of two or more states (like good and bad or like and dislike, and everything inbetween). I'm not sure what that means, but that's kinda the point. Basically, every time I observe my feelings on these movies, I experience something like a wave function collapse and get different results each time. Still confused? Good.
  • Phantom Thread - Severe toast buttering noises. Paul Thomas Anderson is a master filmmaker, but I go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, it is immaculately well composed and has a bleakly dark humor that I found interesting. On the other hand, it feels overlong and bloated, and while I found some of the turns of the story interesting, they also didn't feel entirely baked. Or maybe they were. I don't really know how I feel about this one, hence it's inclusion in this new section.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • A Ghost Story - Look, this is a ten minute long story that is padded out to an hour and a half. And it's worth noting that 5 of those ten minutes is just Rooney Mara housing a pie. Definitely bloated and a little static, but on the other hand, that 10 minute story is worth telling.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Mother! - Some of the most impressive filmmaking skills in the industry used to bring a simple Biblical allegory to life. Bewildering and confounding while at the same time simplistic and didactic, this is a movie I go back and forth on. Definitely worth a watch for film buffs, but I can't see it appealing to general audiences.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Not a Review]
Just Missed the Cut:
But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order: Should Have Seen:
Despite having seen around 90 of this year's releases (and listing out 30+ of my favorites in this post), there are a few that got away. Or never made themselves available here. Or that I probably need to watch, but don't wanna because reasons. Regardless, there are several movies here that I probably should have caught up with: It's been quite a year! Stay tuned for the Oscars next weekend, which should be interesting. After that, we will probably return to to some SF book blogging...
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Hugo Award Season 2018

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo Awards is open, so it's time to get out the vote before the requisite whining and bitter recriminations start in earnest. I've read a bunch of eligible works, but of course not all will make the cut. Here's where I'm at right now: A much better list than last year, when I was only really able to muster a couple of nominations. I'm betting at least one or two will make the finalists, but short fiction is always so impossible to predict. I have a few novels on the bubble as well:
  • Artemis by Andy Weir - It's a fun book, but it doesn't hang together as well as The Martian and the story doesn't feel entirely baked. Some things about this just didn't sit so well with me, but I wouldn't be opposed to a nomination (and indeed, it would probably fair well when compared against the last few years' finalists).
  • The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren - I'm about halfway through this one, which seems like a pretty straightforward space opera/spy thriller type of thing. Great start, but it's bogged down in the midsection. A strong finish could certainly put this on my ballot though.
  • Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee - I'm a fan of Yoon Ha Lee's work (see above referenced novelette), and I liked the first novel in this series quite a bit. I will definitely read this before the nomination period closes, but as the second in a series, I'm not sure how likely it is that I'll put this on my list, even if I love it.
I haven't looked at Best Series in detail, but an initial glance reveals that Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos Series is eligible, which would work. I still think the entire concept of the award is flawed due to logistical considerations (for example, Brust has 15 Vlad Taltos novels, with almost as many additional short fiction entries - how does one read enough of that, along with all the other nominees in order to make an informed decision?)

As per usual, I'll continue to avoid the most mainstream choices for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (i.e. Star Wars and Marvel don't need my help here and will most likely make the ballot, but these movies are worthy of consideration): There's a fair chance that Your Name would be judged ineligible because it came out n Japan in 2016, but it didn't really hit the US until 2017. Otherwise, there's a fair chance that one or two of these movies might sneak onto the ballot. Fingers crossed.

Also of note is that Retro Hugos for works published in 1942 are being held this year, and there are a few classics there, notably Asimov's initial Foundation story and CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, but the one I really want to nominate is a short story by Hal Clement called "Proof" (it's not available online, but it's in tons of collections - the one I read it in was The Ascent of Wonder). It's an awesome story, and it's tale of creatures living in the sun has long legs and influence.

Any recommendations or suggestions are welcome! I'm curious to see how the nominations go this time around. Will the novels be dominated by series/sequels to previous nominees? Will the reduced puppy contingent have any impact? Do I really care that much? I don't know, but there's only one way to find out.
I announced the official 2017 Kaedrin Movie Award winners last week. The basic purpose of these awards is to recognize aspects of films that aren't reflected in more traditional, quality focused awards like a Top 10 list or something. However, sometimes even those awards can't capture everything, so we come to the Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to recognize movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don't conform to normal standards. A few of these "awards" have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary.
  • The "You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else" Award for Worst Dialogue: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. A good portion of this award is perhaps due to dreadful miscasting, but the dialog, particularly the "banter" between Valerian and Laureline, just doesn't work. Thanks to the visuals and some of the action, the dialogue doesn't sink the film, but still. As a notable runner up: Bright features the line: "Faerie lives matter" which is pretty bad.
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Alien: Covenant. It follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, which is probably more stupid, but this one doesn't even pretend to be smart.
  • Best Monster with a Sense of Humor: Korg, voiced by Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok. So great.
  • This Monster Fucks Award: The Shape of Water. I love that this is a movie whose genesis was probably Guillermo del Toro watching Creature from the Black Lagoon and thinking "This guy fucks."
  • Most Unfortunate Facial Hair: Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express. I mean, it's glorious. But also stupid.
  • Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: Brawl in Cell Block 99. This one requires no real explanation, does it?
  • Most Extreme Toast-Buttering Sound Design: Phantom Thread. The extent to which I like this movie is the extent to which I like these handful of scenes, which are utterly brilliant.
  • John Carpenter Memorial Award: The Void. Yeah, yeah, Carpenter isn't actually dead yet, but he's not making movies like this anymore either, so here we are. Great practical effects, solid compositions, weird, horrific stuff.
  • The Breaking News Award for Most Action Packed Long Take: Three. God bless Johnnie To. There's not a lot to this movie, but it builds to a ridiculous single take that utilizes that Matrix-style bullet cam thing that justifies the entire exercise.
  • Fictional Business Chain of the Year: The Continental, John Wick: Chapter 2. So great.
  • Most Needlessly Lurid Method of Surveillance: Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It's like they heard the complaints about certain juvenile elements of the first movie and were like, let's lean into that.
  • The Scarlett Johansson in Her Award for Best Virtual Girlfriend: Ana de Armas as Joi in Blade Runner 2049. I mean, she actually appears on screen, so it's not as tough as Scarlett's role, but still.
  • Most Excessive Needledrops of the Year: Atomic Blonde. I mean, they're great, and all, but there's like, I dunno, 20 too many of them.
  • Best FPS Sequence of the Year: The Villainess. Various films have attempted to ape the First Person Shooter aesthetic over the years, but none as successfully as the opening scene in The Villainess, which is utterly amazing.
  • Most Needlessly Mean Spirited Hazing Rituals: Raw. Man, veterinary school in France is intense.
  • Best Movie With 10 Minutes of Plot Stretched Out To Feature Length: A Ghost Story. The award title says most of it, but it's worth noting that 5 minutes of the 10-minute plot is just Roony Mara eating a pie. I kinda like this movie, but I kinda hate it too.
  • Worst Publicist in the World Award: Herald, played by Kristen Wiig in Mother!. I mean, sure, I guess she's good at her job, kinda, but not really.
Coming down the homestretch, with only the Top 10 and Oscars commentary remaining. Stay tuned...
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2017 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners!

The nominations for the 2017 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. I'm sure your anticipation knows no bounds, so today I'll be announcing the winners. Next week, I'll announce the winners of some more goofy, freeform categories that we call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I'll post my top 10 of 2017. Finally, we'll have some Oscars talk (predictions and probably live-tweeting or retweeting funnier people than me) and then it's on to 2018. Without further ado:
  • Best Villain/Badass: Adrian Toomes / Vulture, played by Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While I'd judge the overall quality of villainy in 2017 to be relatively low, the relative strength of the nominees was actually pretty high. Keaton's Vulture might be the best MCU villain (with the only real competition being Loki), in large part because his motivations are so relatable and almost even justified. Runner up would be Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, who continues to carve out a unique form of villainy in the largely black and white Star Wars universe. Pennywise the Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård in It, is also well worth a mention, but fell behind a bit due to excessive use of CGI in the film. Michael Fassbender's David is a fascinating character, it's just a shame that Alien: Covenant is such a bad movie. Kurt Russell also made for a more engaging than usual Marvel Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the extent to which the character Hela works at all in Thor: Ragnarok is due entirely to Cate Blanchett's sheer force of charisma. The remaining nominees all have their pros and cons, of course, but in the end, it's Keaton's year.
  • Best Hero/Badass: Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde and Bradley Thomas, played by Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99 (tie). Oy, I couldn't decide, so I just chose both. A cheat, but these are two great badasses. An utterly brutal, punishing performance from an unexpected source in Vince Vaughn. I mean, he beats up a car with his bare hands, and that's the least badass thing he does. Charlize Theron kicks a lot of ass and pulls off some of the more intense action sequences of the year (more on this in a bit)...
    Atomic Blonde
    She's more polished and stylized than Vaughn, making this an almost apples to oranges comparison, hence the tie. On the superhero front, Wonder Woman was certainly a contender. The Villainess suffered a bit from melodrama, but has some wonderful sequences for its titular hero. Tom Hardy's role in Dunkirk was probably too small to really take the award, but it's a pivotal (and yes, badass) role. Similarly, there were a bunch of nominees, like Armie Hammer's character in Free Fire, that were great, but only really functioned as part of a larger ensemble.
  • Best Comedic Performance: James Franco in The Disaster Artist. There's something kinda bittersweet about the performance, but I feel like there's a genuine love for the character in the performance, and so it did make me laugh quite a bit. Runner up would be Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (believe it or not, she's a former Best Hero/Badass winner, and might be the first person nominated for both). Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick was also a front-runner. The other nominees were all great, of course, but tended to be smaller performances or part of a larger ensemble, which is always a difficulty with this particular award.
  • Breakthrough Performance: Robert Pattinson in The Lost City of Z and Good Time. Alright, so this is an example of what makes this award a little strange. I obviously knew who Robert Pattinson was, but I must admit that his rise to sparkly vampire stardom did set a point of reference that was perhaps not ideal for him. I also knew that he had done some smaller, more independent fare over the years (perhaps to escape his sparkly vampire reputation), but this year saw two pretty fantastic performances (both in movies I don't love, per say). I didn't even recognize him in The Lost City of Z, but the real performance of the year was in Good Time. The movie is a bit too much of a downer for me overall, but he's amazing in it. As for the other nominees, well, just getting the nomination is an award right? Also of note, I probably should have included Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread as a nominee, but didn't because I'm the worst. Take a bow Vicky, you were wonderful.
  • Most Visually Stunning: Dunkirk. The thing with this category is that the nominees can usually be split into two camps: Gorgeous spectacle and well photographed with impeccable cinematography. Winners tend to favor the former rather than the latter, but this year it went the other way.
    Dunkirk is pretty
    Perhaps it was the theatrical experience of IMAX 70mm, and to be sure, there's a little spectacle in the movie... but nothing quite as ostentatiously spectacular as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which was actually one of a handful of others that was a solid choice. Star Wars: The Last Jedi also merits a mention in the gorgeous spectacle realm (and it's also conversant in film history in a way that no Star Wars film has been since the originals, which is worth recognizing), and Blade Runner 2049 straddles the line well. Columbus might actually be the film with the best cinematography and composition, but it all felt a little static for my taste. The other nominees are nothing to sneeze at either, so maybe quit it with all the sneezing, ok?
  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Get Out. I know this is not a common mix of genres, but rare is the year that science fiction films could warrant a category of their own, so I always pad out the category with some horror. The past several years have seen strong SF presence, and this year there's a nice mix, but the ultimate winner goes to horror. Get Out is a wonder. Supremely entertaining on its own, filled with social relevance without feeling preachy or didactic (and indeed, playing on such expectations to superb effect).
    Get Out
    Lots of other good choices. No clear second place, though I will make special mention of Better Watch Out, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Your Name, as they don't show up much in these sorts of discussions, and I love them all...
  • Best Sequel/Reboot: Spider-Man: Homecoming. I feel like this movie had the deck stacked against it. It's the second reboot in less than ten years, and the previous few films (going back to even Raimi's disappointing third entry) did little to inspire confidence. True, the new Marvel take showed up in Civil War (and was great there), but that could have easily been a fluke. Ultimately, though, this movie succeeded where many Marvel movies fail. It had a great villain, and while the stakes were smaller in an objective sense, I felt just as involved as one of the more planet-threatening box-shooting-a-beam-of-light-into-the-sky scenarios (if not moreso). I was also quite close on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but the whole Casino planet subplot held me back a bit. Honestly, this was a pretty strong year for this category. Several of these films compare favorably to previous winners. I have a general aversion to sequels though, so it's often difficult for me to populate this category. But not this year, for some reason.
  • Biggest Disappointment: The Mummy. I had high hopes. I really did. I love the old Universal monster-verse, which you could argue as being the original cinematic universe, so it just made sense to properly revive those old properties. It's been done numerous times before (most successfully with the Hammer Horror films in the 60s), but for whatever reason, Universal just keep stumbling, and this latest attempt, an explicit effort to set up a cinematic universe, flamed out rather spectacularly. Many elements were there. I actually like Tom Cruise. Sofia Boutella was an inspired choice for the Mummy. Unfortunately, with the exception of the plane crash sequence, most of the film fell flat and the blatant hooks for future films did no favors. While perhaps not objectively the worst nominee, it was the most disappointing because my expectations and hopes conspired to let me down on this one. Of the other nominees, I rather liked the idea of Killing Gunther and Schwarzenegger was great in it... but it's just a shame that he only shows up at the end, and that the rest of the movie is subpar at best. Most disappointing. Magellan is one probably no one else watched, and I guess with good reason, but it's disappointing because there are some interesting ideas that just sort of go nowhere in the end...
  • Best Action Sequences: Atomic Blonde. Several great setpieces in the film, notably the stairwell long take, but also lots of others. John Wick: Chapter 2 is the runner up, I guess, and the two films share the same aesthetic, but Atomic Blonde's felt fresher and more distinct. Baby Driver and Three are both noteworthy in that they have one exceptional action setpiece (the opening car chase of Baby Drive, and the shootout finale in Three) that drove its nomination, but could not pull ahead for the win. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets suffered a similar fate, even if it had a little more consistent action throughout the film. The Villainess also had a spectacular first person opening that guaranteed a nomination, but could not bring it hope with the remainder of the film...
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Your Name. Whether or not you can see a plot twist coming is a measure that is not as meaningful as you might think, but I have to be honest in that I really didn't see the twist in this one coming. I almost feel bad even indicating that there is a twist in this movie at all, as I certainly don't want to spoil anything, but who am I kidding: this is an anime movie that few of you will probably watch. I considered Split for a while, because it's another one I didn't see coming and loved when it happened, but the implications of that twist held it back a little. I loved the sort of downer twist of Blade Runner 2049, but then, it's also a bit of a downer. Better Watch Out is the rare "early" twist that actually works well. But now we're edging ever closer to spoiler territory, so I'll refrain from ruining the other nominees (even though, again, just saying that there is a twist can be something of a spoiler; I guess that's just a risk we have to take, eh?)
  • Best High Concept Film: Bad Genius. Another obscure one that you probably haven't seen, this is a Thai teen movie... and it's the best caper of the year (albeit unconventionally so). I won't say much more about it, but it's definitely worth checking out. Shout out to Happy Death Day for being an actual good take on the whole "What if Groundhog Day was a horror movie?" concept that has been done poorly oh so often. Of course, it's still a blatant ripoff of Groundhog Day, so it can't get the win, but it's got a nice twist or two on the formula. Also Wheelman, a sorta action packed version of Locke that doesn't get much play.
  • 2017's 2016 Movie of the Year: Silicon Cowboys. I guess? I mean, it's a pretty straightforward documentary on the rise and fall of Compaq computers. A topic in my wheelhouse, so there is that. And it's totally worth checking out if you like this sort of thing, but it's not really something that would have cracked my Top 10 (or even honorable mentions) last year. The other nominees are fine for what they are, but it turns out that I didn't follow up on a lot of 2016 movies this year, to the point where I probably should have just removed this category altogether. And this isn't the first year this happened either, so this might be destined to become a quasi-annual Arbitrary Award someday. But for now, I'm fine with giving it to the nerdy computer documentary.
Phew! Some of those category were really difficult, and after my first draft right now, I'm waffling hard on a couple of my choices (update: yep, I put a tie for best hero/badass because I'm the worst).
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2017 Kaedrin Movie Awards

Welcome to the twelfth annual Kaedrin Movie Awards! A dozen years years! Over a decade of dauntless dorkery! The idea is to recognize films for various achievements that don't always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we'll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we'll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2017 movie (with the one caveat that some 2016 films were not accessible until 2017 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I've seen 86 movies that would be considered a 2017 release. Significantly less than your typical critic, but more than your average moviegoer and enough to populate these awards. Obviously this is a personal exercise that is subjective in nature, but the world would be a boring place indeed if we all loved the same things for the same reasons, right? Sound good? Let's get this party started:

Best Villain/Badass
Another middling year for villainy. I didn't have any problem populating the list, but true standouts were rare. As usual, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc...) or ideas.

Best Hero/Badass
A much better year for heroism, both in terms of the villainy they faced, but also with respect to last year, which was severely lackluster. Again limited to individuals and not groups.

Best Comedic Performance
This category is sometimes difficult to populate because comedy so often comes in the form of an ensemble and that does impact this year, to an extent. Looking through my list of films, though, I see very few straight comedies this year, which is a failing on my part, I guess. Still some decent choices available though.

Breakthrough Performance
Always an interesting category to populate. Sometimes, it's not so much about someone's industry breakthrough, but a more personal breakthrough. This can happen even with established actors who put out a performance that forces me to reconsider what they're capable of. This year, we've got more of a moderate crop of young up-and-comers. The main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they've done (or where they came from). A somewhat vague category, but that's why these awards are fun.

Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad movies can look really great... A pretty good year for this sort of thing, with a good mix of spectacle and more sober, well-photographed beauty.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
I like to give a little love to my favorite genres, hence this category. It may seem like an odd combo, but they're basically my two favorite genres, and there aren't always enough movies in one or the other to always justify a full category, so I mash them together. A pretty decent balance this year, though.

Best Sequel/Reboot
Often a difficult category to populate, and there were plenty of duds this year, but there were still a surprising number of worthwhile sequels/reboots this year.

Biggest Disappointment
A category usually dominated by sequels or remakes, but oddly, this year only features a couple of those. This category is definitely weird in that sometimes I actually enjoy these movies... but my expectations were just too high when I saw them. Related reading: Joe Posnanski's Plus-Minus Scale (these movies scored especially poor on that scale).

Best Action Sequences
This award isn't for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and this has been a pretty good year for action.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Well, I suppose even listing nominees here constitutes something of a spoiler, but it's a risk we'll have to take, right?

Best High Concept Film
A nebulous category, to be sure, but a fun one because these are generally interesting movies. Lots of borderline cases this year, but a few strong standouts...

2017's 2016 Movie of the Year
There are always movies I miss out on, whether due to availability or laziness, but when I do catch up with them, I'm often taken with them. Sometimes a very difficult category to populate, maybe because I didn't see much after I posted last year's Top 10, or didn't like what I did manage to see, or just plain forgot that I saw it (which, to be fair, probably says something about the movie's chances). Frankly, not a lot going on this year for this category...

Phew! I feel like I'm a bit overpopulated in my nominees, but what are you gonna do? Winners to be announced next week, followed by Arbitrary Awards, a traditional Top 10 of the year, and finally some Oscars commentary. Stay tuned!
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Vintage SF Month is hosted by the Little Red Reviewer. The objective: Read and discuss "older than I am" Science Fiction in the month of January.
"Across the gulfs between the worlds, from end to end of a Solar System poised taut and trembling on the verge of history, the rumors flew. Somebody’s made it, the Big Jump. Somebody came back." -The Big Jump (Page 1, Kindle Locations 82-86).
Leigh Brackett is best known for her screenplays, notably including The Empire Strikes Back, but she actually had a long history of SF writing behind her at that point. A few years ago, I read Brackett's The Sword of Rhiannon, a Mars-based adventure featuring an Indy Jones-like protagonist, and greatly enjoyed it. So I figured it was time for another, this time opting for The Big Jump.

The novel opens with the return of the first interstellar expedition (a mission dubbed "The Big Jump"), but the authorities are vague and noncommittal about what was learned. Arch Comyn takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, sneaking into secret facilities to discover that only one crew member made the return trip, half-dead and near insane. Hearing the man's dying words, Comyn bluffs his way into the follow-up mission. But is he ready to discover what awaits us beyond the Big Jump?

The first half of the novel reads kinda like a Noir and SF mashup, and Brackett pulls it off in style.
"[...he] wished he knew two things: who had paid the boy with the bad teeth to kill him, and whether this ace in the hole he was going to bluff the Cochranes with might not turn out to be just a low spade after all—a spade suitable for grave digging." -The Big Jump (Page 36, Kindle Locations 973-975).
Yes, this was the woman who wrote the screenplays for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, and it shows. Indeed, while the story and characters are somewhat standard, it is Brackett's prose which elevates this into something worth reading.
"This was not the going between worlds that men had grown used to. This was an adventure into madness." -The Big Jump (Page 70, Kindle Locations 1888)
The story is a bit dated (originally published in 1955) and its short length (bordering on novella) means you can't really delve too deeply into characterization, but Brackett's prose turns the page and her plotting has enough twists and turns to be interesting without seeming convoluted. I can see how the finale, which features a fair amount of existential ambiguity, might turn some folks off, but I found an unexpected depth in it that worked well for me. It's perhaps at odds with the pulpy beginnings, but it does set up some interesting questions (which have to go unanswered).
"They had not conquered any stars. A star had conquered them." -The Big Jump (Page 132, Kindle Locations 3408-3409).
While not Brackett's best, fans of old, pulpy SF would enjoy this, and it works well on that level. The general story is probably something like you've read before, but Brackett's style and verve carry the novel favorably.
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Link Dump

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I'm brewing beer today (something like this), so here are some linkies from the depths of ye olde internets:
  • The 10 Best Movies of 2017 - Christopher Orr's list is nice and all, but this is worth reading for all his cheeky categorical awards later in the post. I will be shamelessly ripping some of them off for my Arbitrary Awards.
  • The Ten Best Films Of 2017, And Other Films - Glenn Kenny's extended list always has stuff I've never heard of, but would probably like.
  • This Year, Make a Movie-Related New Year's Resolution - Matt Singer makes a good point:
    Want to know why most New Year’s resolutions flame out by February? Because they’re always about doing things that suck. Losing weight, drinking less sugary soda, reading a bunch of books: All of these things are awful. Even painful! No wonder no one ever follows through.

    That’s why, every year, I make a New Year’s resolution about movies. In my experience, a person is much more likely to commit to self-improvement when self-improvement involves watching a lot of films.
    Except for the part about reading books. Anyway, one of his suggested resolutions is to watch 50 films made before 1950. Looking back at my viewing last year, I only had 5 (and 2 of those were movies I'd seen before). This seems like a decent idea. I should get on that.
  • Disney's Fox Acquisition Likely Won't See Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy Released - It turns out that the whole Fox rights aspect wasn't really that big of a hurdle. It's still George Lucas' fault.
And that's all for now...
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Vintage SF Month is hosted by the Little Red Reviewer. The objective: Read and discuss "older than I am" Science Fiction in the month of January.

A common trope in Science Fiction is the discovery of some sort of vast, enigmatic structure, often affectionately termed a "Big Dumb Object". The stories revolve around deciphering the structure, who built it, and so on. While there are earlier examples of this sort of thing, Larry Niven's 1970 novel Ringworld is generally held up as a gleaming example of the sub-genre, a trope codifier if not a ur example.

Louis Wu, a 200 year old but restless Earthling, is recruited for a mysterious deep space mission by Nessus, a three-legged alien that sports two snake-like heads mounted on long necks (they're called Puppeteers). Nessus also recruits Speaker-to-Animals, another alien, this one from an aggressive feline race called the Kzin, and Teela Brown, who seems to have been chosen for luck. What? Yeah, more on this in a bit. Nessus is annoyingly vague about the details of his mission, but it eventually turns out that the ever-cautious Puppeteers have spied a rather massive object in a distant star, the titular Ringworld, and this expedition is going to investigate any possible threats.

The Ringworld itself is a megastructure that doesn't so much orbit a sun, but rather surrounds it. Unlike a Dyson Sphere, it doesn't completely encapsulate the sun, but forms a ring around it. The one in the book is said to be approximately the diameter of Earth's orbit, which means it contains a surface area equivalent to approximately three million earths.

The opening of the novel is quite enjoyable. The character introductions and recruitment are ably handled and the initial discovery and explanation of the Ringworld (and its scale) provides that sense of wonder hit that SF fans clamor for (even if I was already aware of what a Ringworld was, which does blunt the impact a bit, I guess, but that's not the book's fault). Once they crash land on the Ringworld and start exploring the surface (looking for a way to repair their spacecraft), things are more uneven. Some of the episodes that take place here are done well and interesting, others are not quite as effective.

The characters are typical SF fodder, meaning that this isn't a particularly deep dive into their personalities and interactions, but there's enough there to keep things moving. Some aspects of the characters go over better than others. Louis Wu is mildly bland, but makes for a good everyman protagonist. Speaker-to-Animals is amusing, but comes off as a Star Trek-like alien race (i.e. a human being with certain traits exaggerated). Nessus is a bit too unpredictably passive, but interesting enough.

Teela Brown's raison d'etre is a bit odd for an SF novel. You see, she was bred for luck, which seems like a strangely irrational thing for a SF story to focus on. That concept is, however, explored in interesting ways. For instance, the crew is initially confused as to why they crash landed, considering they were traveling with the benefit of Teela's luck. But then someone mentions that if she was really lucky, Nessus would have never discovered her in the first place. It later turns out that her luck has served her (and only her) well, but in unexpected and unpredictable ways. So it's sorta like a SF exploration of a not so SF idea.

One of the more annoying things about the story, though, is that we learn almost nothing about the Ringworld Engineers, those who actually built this megastructure. We do see some of their descendents, but after some sort of past tragedy, they are mere shadows of their former glory. Some speculation is made about how their downfall came about (something about alien mold), but little is really known about them. Also, they are distressingly similar in appearance to humans, something that isn't really delved into very much. This undercuts some of the wonder present in the premise, though it doesn't wholly diminish it.

Thematically, Niven does a reasonable job exploring the concepts around playing God and the hubris of certain projects. And the novel has been incredibly influential. As previously mentioned, it's among the first Big Dumb Object stories, and most of what followed used a similar structure to the plot. I read Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama a few decades ago (ugh) at this point, but I actually remember that as being a slightly better take on the concept. Though they share many similarities and neither are perfect, Ringworld is missing that perfect last sentence stinger that punctuates Rama.

This is an interesting book, and I can see why it's so influential, but I do suspect that this ultimately winds up being the sort of thing that only students of the genre can really love. Too many of the stories that this inspired have made improvements, such that going back to read this afterwards might seem like a bit of a letdown. Basically, I should have read this 20 years ago when my brother did. It was sitting right there on his shelf, why didn't I just grab it? Fortunately, I do consider myself a bit if a student of the genre, so I did find this rather interesting. Next up on the Vintage SF Month list is a pulpy tale from Leigh Brackett, so stay tuned.

Update: I have been corrected! The Puppeteers are not quadrupeds, but rather three-legged. A thousand pardons. The post has been updated.

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2017 in Movies and Year End Cramming

Most critics and publications have already published their "Best of 2017" lists and other such reminiscences for the past orbital cycle. Here at Kaedrin, we love movies but we don't play by anyone's rules but our own, and sometimes not even those. As such, we're going to spend the next month or so looking back on the year in movies. This is traditionally focused on movies released in 2017 (Kaedrin Movie Awards are coming next, with the Top 10, and Oscars coming after that...), but I'm going to drill down a bit into my overall movie-watching for the year too. I keep track of all my movie watching on Letterboxd (we should be friends there) and while I used to only log the current year's releases, I started logging all movies for the last couple of years, and now I've got some stats I can share (similar to my year in books). Kicking things off are some overall stats:
  • 264 movies watched
  • 477 hours watched
  • 22 movies a month on average
  • 5.1 movies a week on average
movies watched by week
Looking at the breakdown by week, you can see a lot of variability, with the biggest week including 12 films (this was during my Martial Arts phase), followed by two weeks with 11 films (one during the Six Weeks of Halloween, and the other being part of the year-end rush during a vacation). In terms of the day of the week, watching tends to center on the weekend.
Movie Genres, Countries, and Languages
Next we look at genres, countries, and languages. No huge surprise here, Action movies leading the pack (again at least partially driven by that Martial Arts jag), and USA and English comprising the bulk of my watching. There are some caveats here, as lots of movies might have a weird country of origin (but then, much of that is movies you'd think are USA being somewhere else, so it doesn't exactly improve the ratio). This might be something to work on in the coming year...
Map of movies by country
Not sure how many different countries I saw movies from, but this visualization looks nice, right?
Movie Breakdown
23.5% of the movies I watched are listed as 2017 movies (this is a bit tricky though, as some movies are listed as 2016 weren't really released until 2017) and 29.5% of movies were rewatches... In terms of ratings spread, I'm probably a bit on the generous side, with 3.5 (out of 5) stars being my most common rating (with 3 stars being second most common), but it still represents a sorta bell curve, so I guess that's good.
Movie Stars
Most watched stars are lead by, yep, a bunch of martial arts guys (with Jackie Chan taking the top spot). Also of note here, only one white dude (Anthony Hopkins) and only one actress (Erika Blanc).
Most watched directors are notably more white and male, though we again see a lot of martial arts directors too.
Movie Highs and Lows
An unsurprising highest rated film, with some more unexpected or underseen movies in terms of ratings, popularity, and obscurity.

And finally, here are some movies I'm hoping to catch up with in the next month or so before I post my traditional top 10.
  • Molly's Game - Aaron Sorkin's latest, I'm cheating a bit here because I literally just watched this yesterday (I started compiling this post last week). It's great! Typically witty Sorkin dialogue, and good procedural chops.
  • Personal Shopper - Another one that I just caught up with (I started compiling this list last week), I put it in my queue because the Fighting in the War Room podcast kept mentioning it in conjunction with Hitchcock. I liked it a lot, but comparing it to Hitch is a bit of a stretch. It's far too languid and unevenly paced for that. Still, there's some great texting sequences and Kristen Stewart gives a phenomenal performance.
  • Wormwood - Errol Morris' latest documentary was released on Netflix as a six part series. I've started it, and it's good so far (a little heavy on the re-enactments, though they're done really well).
  • Blade of the Immortal - I'm hit or miss with Takashi Miike, but this one seems interesting and is next up on the chopping block.
  • The Post - Steven Speilberg's latest, don't need much more incentive than that.
  • Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson's latest, I'm not sure how wide this release will be or if I'll be able to get to it, but it's PTA, so it's worth keeping an eye on...
  • Faces Places - Similarly, I have no idea if I'll be able to see this in time (or even when it will be released in the US), but it sounds interesting.
  • Sweet Virginia - A neo-noir thriller that seems like my sorta bag.
  • Take Me - A weird high concept thriller, I might take a flier on this if I can find it...
  • The Ballad of Lefty Brown - Bill Pullman plays a sidekick in a Western that is forced into the spotlight when his more famous partner is killed, sounds interesting enough...
  • The Florida Project - Sounds interesting, but not sure when it'll be available for me, so I may not get to it...
  • It Comes at Night - I've been hearing mixed things about this all year, it doesn't really seem like it would be my favorite, but I might give it a shot since it's available on Amazon Prime Streaming...
  • Dave Made a Maze - Goofy high concept film about a guy who gets lost in a cardboard fort he built in his living room.
  • Ingrid Goes West - Aubrey Plaza plays a social media stalker, sounds interesting enough...
  • Wolf Warrior 2 - Apparently a massive success in China, it didn't get much of a release here...
Well, that should keep me busy. There are a few others that I'm not sure I'll be able to get to due to availability as well, but I'll probably hit 90 or so 2017 movies before I finish my top 10, which is a banner year... Stay tuned, Kaedrin Movie Awards are incoming....
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