Top 10 films of 2016

I know this is a few weeks late, but I’m doing it anyway. I need something to distract me that is the travesty of President Cheeto being sworn in to office. So here…we…go!

10) The Invitation (Dir: Karyn Kusama, Writers: Phil Hay,  Matt Manfredi

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This movie…if I had started to put this list together shortly after I had seen this one, it probably wouldn’t be here. However, since I’ve seen this flick, it’s dug deeper in to my mind. It’s stuck with me. After seeing this with my cuz Ryan, we spent at least 90 minutes talking about it. We both decided it was a “good” movie, not a “great” one. Yet, I keep coming back to it. I thought maybe I didn’t give it a fair shake when I originally saw it. A rewatch confirmed that: this movie is so packed with tone and expert storytelling. Very seldom do I watch a film where you’re questioning the sanity of the protagonist; you start doubt whether you should trust the main character, who’s POV you are seeing the film through. I won’t give any spoilers away; just do yourself a favor and check this out on Netflix/Amazon. Preferably alone. With the lights off. Late at night. Trust me.

9) Captain America: Civil War (Dir: The Russo Brothers, Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely)

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In past years, my top 5/10 films in a particular year are predominantly comic book movies. This year, not so much. With only two comic book movies on my list, I made a strong effort to focus on other genres (and production sizes) to expand my movie tastes. That said, one can’t deny the awesome spectacle that is CA: CW. Chris Evans and RDJR have such a strong chemistry. Every time they are on screen together I’m in awe. I would literally pay so much money for them to star in a My Dinner With Andre remake starring them two. While it wasn’t a straight adaption of the comic mini-series the name is based off of (for good reason), the Russo Bros were able to make something better and logically sound based off of everything that has come before in the MCU. Plus introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man was a huge bonus. (P.S. I really hope the Marvel folks stop dragging their feet about bringing the TV folks in to the movies…I want to see Daredevil, Punisher, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and the like crossing paths with the Avengers and Guardians.

8) 10 Cloverfield Lane: (Dir: Dan Trachtenberg, Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, & Damian Chazelle)

Two of my favorite films of all time are T2: Judgement Day and Alien. Besides many of the obvious reasons, the biggest would be the strong, female protagonists both films have (Sarah Conner and Ripley respectively.) Characters like that have been missing for quite some time. When attempts are made to make movies with these types of characters, even if well done it doesn’t feel earned. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we finally see a movie where the female protagonist earns the title of “Badass Heroine.” While I’ll avoid spoilers explaining how that comes to be, this movie does an amazing job showing Michelle (played by an on point Mary Elizabeth Winstead) digging deep within herself and finding the inner strength/badass to overcome the dire situation she has been dragged in to (both metaphorically and physically.) The final 10 minutes of the 3rd act had me on the edge of my seat in the theater, so much so my back ached from how tense it was afterwards. Amazing sound design and editing keeps the pace quick and the shocks big. And the final scene literally made yell “F*** yeah!”

7) The Nice Guys: (Dir: Shane Black, Writers:  Shane Black,  Anthony Bagarozzi)

Oh man, Shane Black just knows how to do dark comedy. Don’t get me wrong, The Nice Guys isn’t a dark and twisted comedy by any means, but the humor does a hint of that. Just enough to make you laugh with your jaw dropped. My question is: Why hasn’t someone thought to put Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe together sooner in a movie? The back and forth between this two makes it seem like they’ve been doing this for years. A classic 1970s buddy cop/film noir comedy. And it wouldn’t be a Shane Black movie if it all didn’t start with some random, seemingly unrelated event kicking things off. This film is packed with laughs, great acting, impeccable directing, and a screenplay that just oozes awesome. I would love it if this became a new Lethal Weapon-style franchise for Black.

6) The Witch: (Dir: Robert Eggers, Writer: Robert Eggers)

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Unsettling. If I had to choose one word that describes The Witch, I couldn’t think of one better than that. Set 1630s New England, the dreary colors and Puritan devotion to religion gets under your skin from the very start. Why this movie succeeds is because it doesn’t reveal it’s hand until the very end. While most movies want to hurry up and get to the “money shot”, this film uses restraint like a master. Robert Eggers understands the need to let atmosphere and character work to draw you in. He gets you fully invested (with a cast that is pitch perfect casting) so that when the curtain is drawn back, it hits you like a freight train. Are there jump scares? Yeah, they’re present. But they aren’t what matters. What matters for Eggers is creating an experience that will get under your skin, that will make you appreciate what you saw but make you question if you want to come back to this New England homestead any time soon. Trust me when I say the final shot of the film will leave you speechless…and unsettled.

5) Green Room: (Dir: Jeremy Saulnier, Writer: Jeremy Saulnier)

Talk about shocking! This film starts off by presenting characters that some may deem “unsympathetic”; they’re in an indie punk rock band, they steal gas to drive cross country while on tour, they shun things like “social media”, they’re kind of rude dicks to people…but then you start to realize that when you’re just busting your ass trying to get by, trying to make something happen with your creative endeavors, that they’re just tired and trying to make things work, in whatever way they can. So while you learn this about the bandmates, there is a slow burn happening in the background. A slowly burning fuse that leads to a powder keg. When you are starting to invest in the struggle of the starving artists in the band, things take a sudden (and horrifying) turn. Each scene ratchet ups the tension and brutality more and more. Characters shockingly die that you don’t expect, drastic measures are taken by people that you know won’t end well. The end of the movie makes you feel like you’ve ran a marathon, but instead of an easy run, it involved barb wire, guard dogs, guns, knives, grenades, broken light bulbs, fire, and a shit ton of neo-nazis. And one more thing: after the 1st act, you’ll never willingly put your arm through a slightly cracked open door again.

4) Deadpool: (Dir: Tim Miller, Writers: Rhett Reese,  Paul Wernick

This is the 2nd (and best) comic book movie to make the list. Finally, after waiting for what seems like forever, Ryan Reynolds and Co. were able to make the Deadpool movie we’ve been wanting (no, NEEDING) for years. This movie does the right thing and veers way in to the hard R rating, allowing the title character be the mutant he’s meant to be. The amazing thing about this flick though is it is not grotesque for the sake of being grotesque; it is a genuinely amazing movie that has heart and plenty of character to boot. Maybe it’s because Reynolds oozes charisma, the writing team did an amazing job, or the director just knew how to bring this character to the screen, but whatever the reason, it makes for one of the best movies of the year. This movie gets better with repeated viewings, which is hard for me to say. Most movies diminish in value. Deadpool keeps coming back, better than last time. Gah, can’t wait for Deadpool 2!

3) Sing Street: (Dir: John Carney, Writer: John Carney)

This movie has all the feels and probably the best soundtrack in 2016 (trust me, Brown Shoes will be stuck in your head long after watching this.) A ragtag group of teenagers in a Catholic school in the U.K. form a band. Why? ‘Cause why not? (Well, the lead singer and founder of the band does want to win this one girl over, but ya know…) With original songs that just radiate classic 1980s pop, it never lets you stop smiling. There are so many “coming of age” films now in the indie scene, it is so awesome to find one that is so unique and unafraid of what it really is: a musical, fairy tale story. You don’t realize until the very end that you just watched a fairy tale wrapped in a musical wrapped in “coming of age” story. And that is expert filmmaking.

2) Hunt for the Wilderpeople: (Dir: Taika Waititi, Writer: Taika Waititi)

This film is just pure joy. Take Waititi stole my heart on work on shows like Flight of the Concords and on movies like What We Do in the Shadows  (“What are we?…we’re werewolves, not swearwolves” is still one of my favorite movies scenes ever.) This film though…it made me giddy. Happy. Excited. Full of wonder. Waititi takes something simple and for the most part fairly unexciting (the drop off of a foster child at their new foster home) and it soon becomes a rollicking, pseudo father/son adventure through the New Zealand wilderness. By the end of the movie you are stuffed full of all the feels and want nothing more than a happy end for Hec and Ricky. The third act pays off on everything that has come before, which makes it all the better because of that. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve watched a movie (at home or in the theaters) that made me laugh this hard. The best thing about this film is that while you are laughing your arse off, there is still an emotional through line that draws you in. It could just as easily have been made a drama and you would still love it. Plus, you will never laugh so hard at a warthog being butchered than you do in this movie.

  1. Arrival: (Dir: Denis Villeneuve, Writer: Eric Heisserer)

This movie folks…this movie. When the trailer was revealed, I expected it to be good. I didn’t expect it to be AMAZING!!!!!! The director, Denis Villeneuve, is so far 2 for 2 in films of his that I’ve seen (Prisoner and Sicario) but I didn’t know how he would handle sci-fi. This was an important question as he is directing Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to one of my all time favorite films. So I went in to this movie with a lot of questions and he answered all of them! His control of pacing, visuals, acting, story, and all of the other elements that make a film were soooooooo good. You are never overloaded with information, everything has a specific reason for existing, and are not disappointed in anything that happens on screen. I don’t want to get in to specifics on Arrival simply because by revealing anything, it can diminish the overall experience. After my wife and I walked out of our local Alamo Drafthouse after seeing this, we struggled to form sentences to truly state our thoughts on what we just saw. This movie must be seen. It must be experienced.

Honorable Mentions: Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Midnight Special

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Childcare, single parents, and a cause for 2017…

Single Moms Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Child Care and Getting an Education

Over the last couple of years I have been working on a project for the super awesome Marci, my aunt-in-law. This project makes poor through studies and articles focused on several topics: Early Ed, Childcare, PreK, Birth thru 8 years old policy, and foster/adoption stuff. Every day there is something I come across that really impacts me, especially since shortly after the new year starts I myself will be a parent. The stuff I am finding now will impact Heather Harris and I in the near future. So when I come across articles like this one in #NYMag, I get upset.

Offering #ChildCare for single and/or low income parents who are trying to further their education so they can offer a better life for their little one just makes sense. But…that is something that is lost on a lot of people. This is an issue that won’t see improvement in the next two years either (that may change in 2018 depending on what happens w/Mid-Term elections.) Starting in 2017, I am going to make it my goal to do everything I can to help these causes that I currently just read about. I want and need to do this. Not just for my son’s future, but for my neighbor, my fellow Kansas Citian, my fellow American.

I’m gonna start stepping away from posting purely on politics on my social media (unless it is something pretty urgent.) It is fairly obvious where I stand; I hate Trump, the GOP will cripple our country/government, and I still am upset that Bernie wasn’t given a fair shake. Going forward, I want to focus on causes that I know will have a long-lasting impact on our country. A positive impact, one that will help us in 2017 and 2077 if done right. Let’s do this New Year; I’m ready to make you better.

Keeping’ it Geeky,

Average Joe

So tired…

Everyday there is something new that puts the world on blast. Two days ago it was the horrible attacks in San Bernadino, last week PP in Colorado Springs, before that Paris. In between those horrible moments you have smaller moments that are infuriating; the GOP votes to defund PP, does another ACA repeal vote, doesn’t allow gun control legislation to be voted on, the Republican candidates for president constantly demean and promise to deny rights to everyone who is not a true “Christian”, etc.

It is so tiring because every time something like these moments happens, I get fired up. I start posting all over my social media, I pick fights (arguments) with as many people as I can, and literally avoid friends and family who have don’t see things the way I do. I go in to attack mode with complete disregard if it upsets/offends/hurts people. I put blinders on and away I go.

Do I feel I am wrong in my views? Not in the slightest. However, the way I go about pushing my views on others…not so cool. That is where my error lies. That is where I become the jerk; I may be a jerk who’s heart is in the right place, but I’m still a jerk. I had the realization recently when a good friend of mine put me on blast (I know I have used that phrase twice and I promise they will by last.) In a post about the recent shootings in CA I vented about how I can’t stand empty platitudes from leaders and politicians who would rather pray than make actual change. It is a view I stand by. However, I was rather ineloquent in posting about it. I had a view folks who responded that I was more than willing to engage with because for the most part, they agreed.

However, one friend posted a simple one sentence respond that just oozed with hurt. Not picking up on that, I engaged in discussion. Eventually, via replies on Facebook and text, I realized why there was pain in response. I’m not going to say what happened here because it is not my place, but let me just say she had every right to be upset with me. 100%. And I couldn’t defend myself. I shouldn’t even try. My friend made it very real and made me realize that words can have a deep, harmful impact if I (or anyone else) are not mindful of the power they hold.

So I made the promise to my friend I would refrain from posting about that particular topic; this friend respects my views (even the ones we disagree on) but this one was too real for them. After our discussion, it made me think. I’ve been stewing on it for the last 24 hours. What other times have I gone off on something and my words have done the same thing for someone also I hold dear and they were just unable or unwilling to say something about it. I started to really think about the fact that more negativity is pushed out there by me when I start rage posting. I know I have plenty of conservative friends who have unfollowed specifically because while they are more than willing to talk about these issues, they would rather avoid a constant negative presence that I am creating on their news feed.

Being so angry is so tiring. You are constantly going up, up, up in your anger and then you crash. Then you go up again. I have grown to despise getting on my social media for that very reason. I scroll down my newsfeed and every third article/update pisses me off. Then I react. Then I go to the next issue and react again. It is an unhealthy cycle that only causes harm, frustration, and a fair amount of heart burn.

So I think it is time for a change. As of this posting, I have decided to take a break from posting anything politically related. I am refraining from “poking the bear.” By that I mean what I post will consist of positivity and I will not go out of my way to correct anyone on Facebook, even if they are blatantly wrong on a topic. There is one feature I have become a big fan of with Facebook is that if you look at the top right of the post there is a little drop down arrow. You can click on that and block the page that originated the meme (if it is a meme) or you can just hide that particular posting. I did that the rest of the day yesterday and it was glorious.

So for all of my conservative/non-political friends on Facebook, rejoice. I am retiring my crazy Facebook rants. That does not mean they won’t pop up here on my blog, but those will be easy to skip. Going forward, I will have a strict criteria of what can and cannot be posted on my page. That criteria is the following:

Can Post:

  • Updates on family and friends
  • Interesting articles about my hobbies
  • Pictures of my dogs
  • Funny pictures of my wife she doesn’t want me to post
  • Hilarious memes
  • Positive quotes/thoughts

Can’t Post:

  • Political rants
  • Rage filled posts
  • Political memes
  • Argument provoking questions
  • Anything that is filled anger

I think living my social media life by these rules will lead to a more beneficial online relationship with many of my friends and family who view differently than I and that I hardly get to see. When we actually do get to see each other, I’d rather they remember me as who I really am, not the rage filled political bleeding heart liberal they see online.

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey

#IStandWithPP

I was going to do a long blog post filled with my reflections about the worst commerce day of the year (Black Friday) and then the terrorist attack in Colorado Springs happened. The idea of doing a post that blasts the evil that is the busiest shopping day of the year and not acknowledge the incident in CO seemed wrong. While I am not going to spend much time dwelling on the horrific incident (the more I do the more my anger increases) I will say a few quick thoughts.

  • This was domestic terrorist attack that was made possible thanks to the horrible actions of the far right.
  • Women’s health is apparently something considered dangerous by the whackos on the right.
  • Those who say it was a “bank robbery gone wrong”…are you really that much in denial of reality? Seriously, get your head out of your ass.

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    I stand with PP…do you?

  • Pretty telling that all 14 GOP presidential candidates and quite a few GOP leaders have said absolutely nothing about the attack. If it were something that attacked what they deem necessary, you can bet that they would be fired up about it. But a place that “kills babies”? Who cares amiright???
  • I’m glad that both Clinton and Sanders at least responded to the attacks. While I would have wished from more than a tweet from both, they at least acknowledged it. Can’t say the same for O’Malley.
  • None of my conservative friends on Facebook or Twitter have said anything heartfelt for the victims (well, one did post a meme honoring the officer who was killed during the attack; what about the other victims? What about the attack on women’s healthcare?) Needless to say it is days like yesterday that show the true heart of the Right.

In closing: My heart, my thoughts, my prayers go to this affected by this horrible terrorist attack. Going forward, I will do more than just post a hashtag in support. I am going to find ways to volunteer at a local PP location. Every bit helps.

If you would like more information about the services Planned Parenthood offers or would like to donate, please check their website here. 

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey

Here’s the thing about politics…

OK, let me back up for a second. I am not going to go on a tirade about a specific event or topic within the realm of politics. Not yet at least. This blog, though I’ve had for several years now, is really just in its infancy stage, and I’m trying to figure out whether or not this should be an arena where I should talk about that stuff. That decision will be made soon and will probably be made for me. This links to my social media pages (which is ironic I mention that and you’ll know why soon enough) and I will have to decide whether or not the risk of upsetting people I know is worth it (for a good cause, it always is.)

Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, I want to discuss the frustration of politics in general or at least, what the act of discussing politics amongst each other has become…it is now nothing but white noise. White freakin’ noise.

Let me elaborate. Today, most of us live our lives online. By that I mean we tweet, we tumble, we instagram, we Facebook, yadda yadda yadda. You get the drift. Every moment, every thought, every little detail of our lives get thrown up on one or all of the social media platforms. I say this as someone who is very much guilty of this. Because of this practice, our core values and ideas start to be condensed into a simple update that is 140 characters or less. Sometimes, we take the extra step to write a paragraph on something like Facebook.

After we do this, what usually follows? 70% of the people who agree start liking and if brave enough, comment. The likes always outnumber the comments and the comments that agree with you usually say “^This” or “Couldn’t have said it better myself, I’m sharing.” Then there are the other sides (not “other half”, because every political topic has many sides, much like a d20 from D&D), where people will (for lack of a better term) attack your viewpoint. What equates to “screaming”, people use their viewpoints to criticize yours. While their intent may be to focus on the post itself and not the individual, many of us take it as a personal attack.  I know that is not the intent; the people who are my friends on Facebook are ones I care for and I know care for me. Yet talking politics on something like Facebook is like talking in a vacuum; the only thing that exists at that moment is my post and not my 25+ years of history with that family member or friend.

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How many of my friends and family must react when they read my posts on Facebook.

Now, I’m not saying I’m innocent. When I’m scrolling my newsfeed, I do at least one face palm every time. Someone on my feed is posting a meme/article/rant that obviously is wrong or misleading and I just can’t believe they’d post it without looking at all (or any) of the facts. It makes it very hard to stop my clicking finger; my mouse pointer floats over that comment button with excitement as I am getting ready to tear apart their post with so many facts…yet, I realize (sometimes too late) that I am just doing what they did to me just a few days ago. Even though I believe (and often know) that my side is correct, so did they when they responded to my post a week ago. So am I responding to A) Start a grownup dialogue about the issue at hand, B) Post in revenge because they dared to challenge my view not long ago, or C) Just poking the bear? Sometimes its all of them, others just one of them.

We do this over and over again, using social media to speak our complex and intricate view points in small snippets that don’t truly explain all of our viewpoints. They aren’t even good synopsis’s of our views; I feel if they were there would be less online screaming and more online discussion. So that brings me to the point of this post; our reliance of social media to speak for our politics has hampered our ability to discuss the issues we care about as grown ups and in person. You know how it seems more and more people are saying “I can’t stand family gatherings, all we do is talk about politics and religion, so by the end of it everyone is mad at each other!” Granted, that may be something that has been going on for years, but nowadays it seems it is exasperated by the fact we take all of the memes, rants, and updates with us to these family events (“political baggage” if you will) and use them to argue for us. How is this productive? It isn’t! Yet we do it still!

That is my problem with politics today. Not that they divide; they have and will continue to do so. No, my problem is that we have become to reliant on a social media platforms to speak for us and therefore, have become less able to discuss and maybe solve the issues in person, like adults. If the world didn’t rely so much on social media, I would have walked away from them long ago. Sadly, that’s not an option. I have no idea now to fix this problem that I’ve blabbered on about; I just know it is a problem and it infuriates me.

I do know my personal solution though. After writing this post and rereading it before posting, I have come to a decision. I will use this blog to post my political views. However, they will not be sudden reactions to a situation. They will be researched, coherent, and hopefully, able to stand up to scrutiny. Thanks to the template of my blog, the categories are posted at the top of my posts. So, if you have no desire to read a politics heavy post, you’ll know right away to keep on scrolling past. I do hope you take a moment to read what I have to say though. Maybe you’ll agree with, maybe you won’t. If you don’t, that’s ok. We could have a dialogue about it that refrains from using base emotions but instead would be two adults talking. It is possible to do that online. Difficult, but possible. Hey, one can hope right?