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State of the Blog – December 2016

In the Northern Hemisphere, darkness insists upon our waking hours earlier each day.  The country is full of crybabies and fascists, and nothing in between.  It’s cold.  But at least there’s a new Star Wars movie to over-appreciate.

That’s right – it’s December, so it is time for our second annual Star Wars movie, a new tradition that will mark the end of the year from now until the day you die or the sci-fi/fantasy franchise becomes unprofitable (yeah, you’re definitely dying before that happens).  Here at Plot and Theme, I’ll be sure to see the newest film, but I’ve got a lot more in my sights, too.  So, let’s go over some of the stuff from last month, look forward to movies and anticipated pieces, and we can leave this year in our rear-view in style.

Looking back at November, I can confidently say that it featured the best collection of films that I saw all year, especially if you include things like Moonlight, which I saw in November but was in limited released in October.  If you add in Arrival, the best science fiction film to come our way since probably Children of Men, and another fine outing from Disney in Moana, you start to appreciate the entire slate.  Smaller indies looked pretty good too, from Loving to The Edge of Seventeen.  My Arrival review and my Moonlight review have both been up for a while, and it is likely that each movie will find its way onto my Top 10 List for the year, so give those a read if you’re interested.  In the next few days, you can expect reviews of Moana, Loving, and Allied in the rare one-word-title, triple-feature  Bonanza!  Long story, short:  Moana is wonderful, Loving subdued and profound, and Allied unfortunately mishandled. (Shit, now you don’t have to read the full reviews; I’m bad at this).

As for December, let’s first look at the films which do not take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  I am most excited for La La Land for many reasons:  the talent involved (acting and directing), the story, and it is an old-fashioned Hollywood musical to boot!  It is technically supposed to release this week, but its actual nationwide release is not until the 16th.  I intend to get this review out quick, so look for it soon thereafter.  Nocturnal Animals and Miss Slone occupy similar space for me; each could be very good adult thriller, but aren’t exactly banging down my door right now.

In the biopic arena, we get Jackie, which is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for Natalie Portman, and also The Founder, which features Michael Keaton as the man who contributed to the explosion of the franchise model of MacDonald’s.  The former will release wide, but it is starting to look like The Founder probably won’t be fully available until January.  There’s some reasonable pop fare, too, most notably Passengers and Assassin’s Creed.  I loved Macbeth (same director and leads), so I am very hopeful there.  The less said about Sing, the better.

This being December, there are a ton of Oscar-hopefuls dipping into the final week to acquire their eligibility for this year’s awards.  The list includes:  Silence; I, Daniel Blake; Fences, Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, Live by Night, Toni Erdmann, and Paterson.  Notable remarks:  Silence is directed by Scorsese, Fences features a performance by Viola Davis that supposedly has her running away with an Oscar, Live by Night and 20th Century Women both contain Elle Fanning (choo-choo!), Toni Erdmann has the second-highest rating on of any movie this year (#1:  Moonlight), and finally, Paterson topped many critics’ “Best-Of” lists from the film festivals where it was screened.  Plus, don’t forget that things like Manchester by the Sea roll out into nationwide releases.  It is going to be a good December.

And then there’s Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story.  I am on record for being more displeased with The Force Awakens than most, and it seems as though much of the time ghost has started to sour on the film in recent months (see:  South Park staging their season around it being just okay).  I admit to being hopeful for Rogue One, and I would cite Garreth Edwards’s work on Monsters and the idea that this can be a very different movie in the Star Wars universe (and very different is exactly what we need).  But then I would have to simultaneously ignore Garreth Edwards’s work on Godzilla and the fact that The Force Awakens also flubbed any opportunity to be different.  I guess I am hopeful, but not delusional – there’s a fair chance that Rogue One is even worse than The Force Awakens.  It isn’t like it will matter; the movie will still make billions of dollars, inspire internet vitriol, and end up as “Teh Best Movie Evar” according to some.

And this brings me to an overarching theme that I will look to explore as part of my own Top Ten list for 2016:  the hopelessness of finding genuine quality filmmaking inside the standard Hollywood system.  As I compile a rough draft of this list, the closest things to “Hollywood” or “Blockbuster” that even deserve to be in the conversation are Deadpool and some animated flicks from Disney.  We’ll see if anything from December cracks the top 10, but look for me to keep pounding at the idea that if you want freshness, challenging content, or quality in your movies, you can’t rely on the big-budget movies to deliver it.  Look for this piece in the last week of December.

Because then it is January.  And if you thought December was dark and cold, wait until you see the slate for the first month of 2017, which includes an entirely new subgenre:  Found-Footage Horror Reality.  You’ll find the first entry into this genre under the title, “President Trump’s State of the Union Address”.

Finally, in bean-counting news, I am well on my way to reaching 100K views by the end of the year.  Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, it looks like it is going to happen!  Average readership is up (almost all from search engine queries), and the catalogue of pieces grows by the week.  Plot and Theme will become two years old in April, and there’s no sign of stoppage from my end, so keep up those shares, likes, discussions, and what-not.  I would especially like suggestions for how you’d like me to handle awards season:  should I predict nominees (and then update with snubs?), wait for the announcement and then pick winners?  Live-tweet (or blog?) the ceremony?  Let me know, and I’ll get to work figuring it all out.

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Derek Jacobs

Chicago,IL 60606

A website

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