‘Emma’ delightful, but only for moments at a time

Images courtesy Focus Features.

6/10 Luxurious period comedy Emma is absolutely raucous at points, but as it wears on, it just doesn’t spend enough time being funny.

Hartfield, England, early 1800s- Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), handsome, clever and rich, has lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. After two people she introduced get married, Woodhouse decides that she is a matchmaker, much to the chagrin of longtime companion George Knightley (Johnny Flynn). Woodhouse takes on Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a new friend of uncertain breeding, as her plaything, attempting to set her up with various local gentlemen to generally chaotic results.

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Sometimes good things happen

Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

This was supposed to be 1917’s night, but I came in with a sneaking suspicion. A suspicion that there would be, well, not quite an upset, but the Academy would go a different direction, that they would give 1917 its due in technical awards – which they didn’t – but that for Best Director and Picture, they would go for something with more soul, something that spoke to them on a deeper level, something that would surprise everyone.

I thought they’d give Best Director and Picture to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

1917 was the favorite, but that would be the Hollywood thing to do, pass up a better movie for one that’s more romantic about Hollywood itself. You could spend the few week interval between nomination announcements and the actual ceremony talking up about how director Quentin Tarantino is “due,” it’d be fine. It’d be a shock to draw viewers, a nice surprise for Tarantino fans and the Academy would get what it wanted anyway. It’s something Parasite director Bong Joon Ho said as he lay the groundwork for his inevitably winning Best International Picture and nothing else – “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”

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‘The Grudge’ is exactly the type of movie that gets dumped on the first weekend of January

A lot of what made me think this movie was going to be different was the rich golden hue on most of its images, which is nice, but doesn’t contribute much of anything. Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

2/10 I adore Takashi Shimizu’s American Grudge movies from the mid-‘00s for their unforgiving pacing and dense array of strong jump scares, so I was excited to see a reboot coming from writer/director Nicolas Pesce – not because I’d seen or enjoyed any of his prior work, just because I implicitly trust the process of promoting indie directors to do studio work despite all the examples of it not working out. I’d somehow gotten into my head the idea of this 2020 Grudge movie as being a passion project by someone who wanted to bring the franchise into a new decade instead of a routine attempt by Sony to milk its properties, one that they’d been trying to push out for almost 10 years by itself without success.

Hoping for a piece of art when I should have been expecting a corporate cast-off, I kind of got both.

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10 years of entropy

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

It is Jan. 15, 2020. Ten years ago today, I caught a matinee showing of The Book of Eli, a deeply forgettable Denzel Washington vehicle boasting Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman as the villain, at AMC Irving Mall. It was my first published movie review for the Tarrant County College Collegian, which I’d begged my way onto as a high schooler. I have been doing this now for 10 years.

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The most important movies of 2019

Annual top 10 lists are dumb and arbitrary and I hate them, even as I’ve started doing them. We can do better here. Instead of a static list of 10 favorites, 10 peanuts with which to pack the year away forever, let’s put together a list of the movies that we’ll carry with us into the future.

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