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I, TONYA   I'm so sorry I didn't see this movie last year so that I could have put it on my ten
favorite movies list of 2017.  Of course it's about 90's Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and the
events surrounding the attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan that were eventually traced back to
Harding's camp. Unlike practically every other movie that gets made (that isn't about a superhero)
claims to be "based on a true story."
 I, Tonya takes that claim and goes one better. It claims to be
based on the testimony that Harding, her vicious harpy mother, her psychopathic husband, her
psychopathic husband's best friend gave to the FBI. In the process of protesting their own
innocence, every one of these idiots revealed themselves to be people who could not possibly turned
a self-professed Oregon redneck into America's next sweetheart. Although certainly flawed, the
most reasonable person in Tonya Harding's world was-wait for it--Tonya herself. The old saying is
that you can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Tonya was definitely screwed in the
family department--the scene of her father leaving home when she was a little girl are really
heartbreaking, and the mother she was left with was a trainwreck. But the husband she picked.  Oy.
What a yutz. OK, she married him to get out of the house. But let's just say she should have left the
bastard after the sixth or seventh time he beat her. But we're talking about the movie, not the life, so
just let me say, that everybody in the movie is practically perfect.  Margot Robbie as Tonya is a
wonder. McKenna Grace, who impressed in 2017's
Gifted, continues was equally fine as young
Tonya. Allison Janney will probably win an award as the monster--I mean, the mother. Don't even
think about allowing a child to watch it, but otherwise, I can't recommend it highly enough.  

GAME NIGHT   is light as air and lots of fun. (I almost hate to say anything too nice about it
because it might tempt the producers to make a sequel.)  Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman and Kyle
Chandler are a pleasure to watch when they're trying to be too serious.  In this film, they're aided
and abetted by four or five other fine actors who are childless friends who get together regularly for
the eponymous evening of entertainment. Into their midst fall Bateman's brother (Chandler) and a
next-door neighbor who kick the gamesmanship up six or seven notches. Of course, it's as
improbable as all get out, but your watching this movie just to have some fun.  And you do.  God
bless it.  (2/28/2018)

AMERICAN ANIMALS   I commend the p.r. folks who promoted this movie. They did a
wonderful job of making the thing sound like the most important movie of the summer. (I guess that
title will now go to
Crazy Rich Asians.)  In case you've managed to avoid the buzz, American
Animals is about four college students in Lexington, Kentucky, who plan to steal millions of dollars
worth of rare books from the library of Transylvania University in 2004.  (We're talking about a first
edition folio of
Birds of America, The Origin of the Species, a Gutenberg Bible, etc.)  The biggest
hitch in their carefully laid plan was that it was drawn up by four numbskulls. I mean
really stupid
numbskulls. So really stupid in fact that I dare you to sit through the whole movie and not sy "What
a dope!" at least once. The debatable genius of the movie's promoters is that they've somehow
parleyed this
Jackass-like caper into some sort of commentary about the millennial generation. Not
only do we have four good young actors playing the "gang" members as their college-age selves, we
also have the four original perps offering a running commentary on how it went down. (I kept
thinking that any of the four "real" men could have become a pretty good actor-kind of a bizzarro
version of the three soldiers who played themselves in the
15:10 to Paris.) When the caper
eventually collapses on itself (not much of a spoiler), all sorts of people comment about how this
was a typical case of millennials feeling entitled to the fruits of wealth without having to work for
them.  The movie is never dull, and if big chunks of it seem unbelievable, it's because what's being
presented is unbelievably stupid. (6/24/2018)

THE FAVOURITE  I have nothing to back this up, but I suspect that Emma Stone and Rachel
Weitz were irritated that they didn't get the main roles in Mary, Queen of Scots, so they decided to
make their own movie about eccentric English queens. The queen in question is Queen Anne (she of
the chairs) who ruled in the early 18th century. Weitz his her mentor/favorite/lover/etc., and gets a
lot of pleasure out of addressing her sovereign with the same term of endearment that Samantha Bee
addresses Ivanka Trump. One fine day, Weitz's neice, Stone, shows up at the palace looking for a
position where she can start rebuilding her family's fortunes. She worms her way into the queen's
heart and bed, and hilarity ensues as Weitz and Stone battle who will be The Favourite. I hope
everyone had a good time making this movie.  It looks as if they did.  They get pushed into the mud
(and worse) frequently, they bitch at each other and everyone else, and they general make
themselves obnoxious, which is what the movie requires. The Favourite doesn't presume to be
history, but it does presume to be fun.  And it is.  (12/21/2018)

OPERATION FINALE   If you are among the twelve people in the US who might have an interest
in the story of the capture of Nazi Adolph Eichmann by an Israeli Mosad squad in 1963, you may
well love this movie. To say that it's quite a step for the director of
American Pie, About a Boy and
one the
Twilight movies (does it really matter which one?), is an understatement.  Weitz tells his
story in a straightforward way, and mercifully, there are few flashbacks to flesh out the characters.
Ben Kingsley is outstanding as the former concentration camp butcher, and Oscar Isaac lives within
his role as the leader of the squad sent to Buenos Aires to bring him back. I liked the movie a lot, but
I can imagine that most people would prefer to watch almost anything else. (9/6/2018)\

MODERN AMERICAN ARTISTS  This is a documentary film that you're going to have to look
for. I'd love to see it as part of the Louisiana International Film Festival, but we'll see. Peter
Distefano of the group Porno for Pyros took it upon himself  to go out looking for-well, modern
American artists who would be willing to paint him while he jammed on his guitar. He only found
two-Mark Gorman and Alice Asmar-but they were gold. Whether you've heard of him or not,
Distefano is definitely someone you'd enjoy spending time with and he does a wonderful job of
getting the artists to open and talk about their passions for painting and life. These comments don't
really do the film much justice; suffice to say that any preconceptions you might have had about art
and artists will be challenged, if not completely overthrown. 88-year-old Asbar (who probably was
flattered to be thought of "modern") had so much to say about living in the moment that I think
everyone should be required either to watch the movie or listen to her.
In case you can't tell, Modern American Artists (despite its name) blew my socks off.  I think you'll
like it, too.  (1/12/2018)

BORG v McENROE  You would be forgiven if your first response to a movie with Shia LeBeouf
playing John McEnroe is, "Um, none for me. Thanks." I totally get that. I felt the same way. But
then I saw the movie and remembered that Mr. LeBeouf can be a damn fine actor when he's sober
and straight. Borg is played by a Swedish actor (Sverrir Gudnason) who's a dead ringer for Jared
Leto, and maybe Bjorn Borg. The movie centers around the 1980 Wimbledon finals, regarded as the
finest men's tennis match ever played, in which Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon's Men's
Final.  It was the first time it had happened, and it was considered the greatest moment in Swedish
sports history.  (Don't ask me what No. 2 on the list might be.) Director Janus Metz does a
masterful job of showing us how these two men became what they were that day in July 1980.
McEnroe had the reputation for being loud and obnoxious (because he was) and Borg was the Ice
King, never showing emotion.  But in a series of flashbacks, we see that Borg was just as much of a
brat in his younger days as McEnroe was, only he had it beaten out of him by a manager/trainer,
played here by Stellan Skarsgaard, who won a Swedish Academy Award (apparently, there is such a
thing) for the role. In any event, he deserves it. We understand that when he grabs Borg and says,
"Promise me you'll never show an emotion again," that Borg will keep the promise and spend the
next ten years of life seething internally but never letting show. After McEnroe came back to win
Wimbledon in 1981, Borg retired from tennis at the ripe old age of 26 and presumably has had a
wonderful life for the past half century or so. McEnroe, of course, never had that kind discipline
applied to him, and we see that for better and for worse, he made himself what he was. Although
there's not much of a resemblance, LeBeouf is perhaps the perfect choice to play McEnroe
because-let's face it-they both seem to be on the same wavelength. In any event, this is a terrific
movie, and I recommend that you check it out.  (4/12/2018)

THE DEATH OF STALIN   is a small miracle.  It's funny, smart, audacious to the point of
ridiculousness. It was filmed at some expense in Kiev and Moscow, it's stars are character actors
like Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Simon Russell Beale, and there's not an empowered woman
in sight. Clearly, it is not an American movie. It claims to be based on a comic book, and most of its
scenes do indeed suggest that somebody had the idea of bringing
Mad Magazine's "Spy vs. Spy" to
life. The plot follows the events before and after the death of Stalin rather faithfully but plays them
all for laughs.  And it is funny. The actors (Buscemi is Kruschev; Tambor is Malenkov; and Beale is
Lavrenti Beria, perhaps the funniest of all) are aided and abetted by what appears to be an entire
supporting cast of former Bond villains, and it's clear they're having a good time. Jason Isaacs, the
evil British colonel from
The Patriot, as Field Marshall Zhukov seems particularly demented. Now
that it's wrapped up its five-day run in the theaters, I have no idea where you should see this movie,
but be on the look-out for it and prepare to have a great time watching it.  (4/2/2018)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY  More responsible reviewers of this movie than I will tell you that the
music scenes in the movie (of which there are many) are wonderful, and the rest of the movie that
unpacks Freddie Mercury's personal life is boring.  Well, duh. Have those reviewers never heard that
performers are never more alive than when they're on stage?  That's certainly the case with Freddie,
and his messy personal life was something of a show-business cliche. Some reviewers say that the
movie shortchanges Freddie's life as a gay man, but unless he or she is unconscious, it won't be
possible for any reasonable moviegoer to miss that Freddie as a gay man. I suspect the reviewers
I'm talking about wouldn't be happy unless the entire movie was about Freddie's sexual antics, but
speaking for the rest of us, we get it. But the story is the music, and the music is irresistible. You
won't be able to help smiling at the screen whenever someone's playing a tune. Speaking of music:
This is the last 20th Century Fox movie I'm likely to see before Disney takes over the studio at the
end of the year. It's going to break my heart not to be able to hear the amazing 20th Century Fox
Fanfare prior to movies. Laugh if you want, but I feel as if I'm losing a friend.  (11/10/2018)

GAME CHANGERS  Who would have thought that the star of the best movie of the year would be
Alex Trebek. Game changers is a ninety-minute visit with the great game show hosts of the past and
present. From Bill Cullen to Drew Carey, they're all here. Trebek is our host as we visit the homes
of Wink Martindale, Peter Marshall, Regis Philbin and others to hear their stories, and shows
outtakes from all the great shows. (Yes, even the infamous, "Where's the most unusual place you've
ever made whoopie?" question is here.) As the doc goes along, you find yourself buying into the
notion that game shows, even the fancy ones we have now, are a small pool of light in the
increasingly dark world of television and video. It was wonderful to spend an hour and a half with
the men (yep, they were all men, except for Vanna) who made the good old days good. (11/25/2018)
WERE THERE 10 movies I liked in 2018?

Yeah, but I didn't see them all in theaters. I saw them on computers (thank you Louisiana International Film Festival for allowing me
to screen films for the festival.  Some of those films made this list!) and phones (yuck) and even on airplanes.

At the risk of sounding like the oldest man in the world, I don't automatically think that I'll enjoy the experience of going to a theater.
More and more of you (damn you) are looking at your phones and ruining the experience for the rest of us.

So the movies on this list are not the best movies I (or anyone) saw this year. And God knows, they won't be recognized by
anybody in Hollywood, as they're not the typical junk they like to recognize. (Another reason that some will find this list problematic
is that three of the movies on it were released in 2017. To that, I'd just like to say that they weren't released anywhere around me.)

So before I sound more bitter about the whole process than I really am, here are the movies I enjoyed most in 2018.  I hope you
enjoy this 20th list of my favorite movies of the year because it may be the last such list you'll see for a while.
All 2018 Movie Comments