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Shower Thoughts: Does ‘Psycho’ Still Hold Up 60 Years Later?

 Ha ha. Shower thoughts! Get it? Alright, alright; I’ll lay off the puns.

First Thoughts

 If you can believe it, there was a time when I wasn’t completely obsessed with movies. Back in high school, I took a “Literature Through Film” class as an excuse to watch movies as the class of the day. It was a chance for me to relax for an hour before going off to work. I remember when it was announced that we would be watching Psycho (1960), the principle of the school came in and assured us that even though this movie was rated R, there was nothing in this movie that would violate our cultural religious beliefs. However, if anyone felt uncomfortable, the teacher would provide an alternative assignment. (I grew up in a very conservative part of Utah) No one took the alternative, and I myself was super excited to see a real life, unedited rated R movie! (Once again, I was really conservative growing up.) When the credit rolled, I found myself with a deep sense of…boredom. Despite being in a film class, I had not begun to appreciate all the nuances and technical aspects that comes with filmmaking. I had expected a lot more shocking visuals and graphic violence to accompany the movie regarded as the greatest thriller/slasher film ever made. In my youthful arrogance and ignorance, I wrote off Psycho as being overrated and was determined to leave it at that. Thankfully, I grew up.

My Redemption Arc

It was around 2014 when I discovered my love for watching and collecting movies, and around the fall of 2015 when I first began seriously studying film as a medium. I took an introduction to film class with my roommate, and I began really appreciating what goes into making a film. I began to expand my watch-list beyond the bi-annual Disney and Marvel movies, getting into more independent films and familiarizing myself with different directors. About a year later, I realized that I still had neglected a whole genre: horror. I had always been a bit apprehensive about horror film because of my conservative upbringing, but I also knew I wouldn’t be a very good film critic if I refused to watch an entire genre. So I began to ask around to see what the best horror movies were. I slowly began to really appreciate and admire horror as a genre simply by how much effort it takes to create a good horror picture. Cheap B-horror movies are a dime a dozen, and I can’t tell you how great it is to see a fantastic horror movie. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when the Backseat Directors writers were having a group discussion about critically acclaimed movies that were overrated (in contrast to our “Defend Your Movies” series on the podcast). I threw out that I thought Psycho was boring, and the gasps of outrage and disbelief could be heard throughout the far reaches of space. André (the founder of Backseat Directors) brought up the suggestion that I should watch it again and see how I feel about it now. Knowing that my knowledge of movies had grown, and I’d probably have a different opinion now, I agreed. So, what’s my verdict? Psycho is a masterpiece.

Surprise vs Suspense

Vera Miles as Lila Crane in the iconic “shower scene” of Psycho (1960) | Paramount Pictures.

Many fans of Hitchcock are likely familiar with his famous advice about surprise vs suspense:

There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.

TV interview with Alfred Hitchcock

One thing that plagues a lot of modern horror/slasher films is the over use of jump scares, and the lack of suspense building. They tend to go for the surprise angle and not the suspense. For some movies, that’s completely fine. However, an over reliance on suspense over surprise actually cheapens the quality of the film. This is the reason the original Halloween (1978) was such a success. It wasn’t as bloody or gory as most modern movies, and even the Halloween sequels themselves. But the constant stress of waiting and not knowing what the killer was going to do next kept us on the edge of our seats. I believe this drew its inspiration from Psycho.

“Re Re Re Re”

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in one of the most iconic scenes in film history | Psycho (1960) | Paramount Pictures.

The music of Psycho is the heart and soul of the movie. Hitchcock even admitted that without the music, he was convinced that Psycho would be doomed to be a made-for-TV movie. However, after seeing the film with the finished score, he was confident in the film.

Going back to my comparisons with the original Halloween… in both films, the music elevated what could have been a B-movie into a masterpiece. Both had great themes and haunting melodies that accompanied the sense of being watched and stalked.

Anthony Perkins

I just want to acknowledge how outstanding Anthony Perkins’ performance is in this movie. When we first meet Norman Bates, he seems like the perfect boy next door: a shy, but good natured man. Then slowly we learn that he is a peeping tom, and covers up for what he believes is his mother’s murders. The subtle change in his face and in his eyes over the course of the film is absolutely brilliant.

Final Thoughts

Back in high school I knew almost nothing about different types of movies, nor how they were made. In the words of my old boss at the movie theater, I was a “popcorn muncher.” Now, I totally understand why this movie is referred to as a classic and a masterpiece. Those terms are rightly used. It was because of Psycho that movies like Halloween could become so beloved. I’m so glad I watched this movie again. I own it now, and so should you.

31 Films for 31 Nights: Your Guide to the Spookiest and Scariest Films You Can Watch this October

Good evening foolish mortals! It is I, the grandmaster of ghouls Josh here to share with you 31 films that I personally will be watching this October. One horror film for every day of the month is my tradition and we will be going through old classics and modern terrors, a mix of mainstream and indie, and none of that fun family Halloween. This is pure screams and gore. So please, sit back, relax, and don’t look behind you….you might not like what’s there.

Oct. 1 – Midsommar: You might ask yourself, “What’s so scary about a fun festival that takes place in a constant daylight setting?” Ari Aster is ready to show you. Ambitious, disturbing, and excellently made, Midsommar is modern horror that must be seen.

Midsommar is available streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Oct. 2 – The Wicker Man (1973): Keeping our theme of terrifying cults, The Wicker Man is ultimately a story of faith in God against the sinners, though the ending is not a victory.

The Wicker Man (1973) is available streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Oct. 3 – They Live: What I love about They Live is that it challenges modern media even in today’s current times. It’s a film about breaking the status quo and not falling for media deception. Very relevant for today.

They Live is available streaming on STARZ.

Oct. 4 – Se7en: “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!” is one of my all time favorite lines in cinema and Se7en is one of my all time favorite detective films. What makes it so terrifying is how real the whole film feels, and a serial killer who is always one step ahead.

Se7en is available streaming on HBO Max.

Oct. 5 – The Conjuring: A movie that nails the “based on true events” theme that it is based on. James Wan excellently directs a fine period piece that is heavy on the scares.

The Conjuring is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 6 – The Strangers: While not the strongest movie per se, what The Strangers does right is instill the fear in you that this could really happen to someone. Reckless violence is truly terrifying.

The Strangers is available streaming on SYFY.

Oct. 7 – Raw: This movie absolutely shocked me when I first saw it; a sweet girl who is a die-hard vegetarian finds out she has a penchant for the taste of flesh, while also discovering herself in college. What could go wrong?

Raw is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 8 – Re-Animator: Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, Re-Animator is loud, gory, and insane. A fun black comedy, yet also horrifying.

Re-Animator is available streaming in fuboTV and Showtime.

Oct. 9 – 28 Days Later: An excellent reimagining of the zombie genre. This movie will punch you in the face and never let up.

28 Days Later is available streaming on SYFY and sling.

Oct. 10 – The Babadook: Using the horror genre to explore how difficult motherhood can be sounds like a daunting task, but Jennifer Kent makes it look like a cakewalk. It balances tension and scares in a masterful way.

The Babadook is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 11 – Don’t Look Now: A movie that strays away from a lot of the conventions of horror, but rather focuses on very human themes such as grief and the mental anguish one suffers. This movie changed the way I see horror and should not be missed.

Don’t Look Now is available streaming on Amazon Prime Video and The Criterion Channel.

Oct. 12 – The Descent: Claustrophobia mixed with creatures is always scary. This movie is nerve-wracking and intense, a payoff from its excellent direction and performances.

The Descent is available streaming on sling and tubi.

Oct. 13 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992): My personal choice for a Dracula film. This movie is pure 90s, overblown, noisy, but ultimately gorgeous. The performances are excellent and what keeps me watching it every year.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is available streaming on YuppTV and DirecTV.

Oct. 14 – Scream: Wes Craven not only helped create the horror genre but he also re-invented it. A very meta film that breaks all the rules. Scream may seem by the books now, but at the time this was a whole new ball game.

Scream is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 15 – The Witch: A film that is an exercise in showing not telling. It’ll feed you little hints and details until it is too late. Thought provoking and masterfully made.

The Witch is available streaming on fuboTV and Showtime.

Oct. 16 – Bone Tomahawk: A genre mashup of western and horror is as appetizing as peanut butter and tuna. But Bone Tomahawk relishes in its disgustingness with disturbing visuals and intense gore. Not for the faint of heart.

Bone Tomahawk is available streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Oct. 17 – Suspiria (1977): Italian director Dario Argento’s magnum opus, this is punk rock horror. One of the last films made in Technicolor the reds of the blood are intensely crimson, and the vibrant colors terrify the eyes.

Suspiria (1977) is available streaming on tubi.

Oct. 18 – Audition: If you have never seen this movie I highly suggest going in blind. If you have seen it then you know why. A total smoke and mirrors show that is also a pressure cooker that explodes in the nastiest way, Audition will leave you in total shock.

Audition is available streaming on SHUDDER and tubi.

Oct. 19 – Friday the 13th Part 2: I actually think that Part 2 is the best entry in the series, and is actually the film where Jason Voorhees is the primary villain. Gory, choppy, and brutal, what everyone loves on good ol Halloween.

Friday the 13th Part 2 is available streaming on sling.

Oct. 20 – A Dark Song: This little indie film is the very definition of a slow burn horror. Nothing but setup for what feels like an hour and you’re ready to give up. But if you stick through it you’ll witness a film that will chill you to the bone.

A Dark Song is available streaming on sling.

Oct. 21 – Lake Mungo: A ghost story in mockumentary form, Lake Mungo feels so real that you have no choice but to sympathize with the characters on screen. The power of this film is how tragic it is; it’s a feeling that stuck with me for weeks.

Laker Mungo is available streaming on Amazon Prime Video and tubi.

Oct. 22 – Martyrs (2008): This is probably the most controversial film on my list. A French shock film that pushes the absolute limits. I wish I could stick my brain in a dishwasher to take this film out of my memory.

Martyrs is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 23 – The Blair Witch Project: This is seriously a once in a lifetime kind of film. While it feels tame by today’s standards, The Blair Witch Project has actually helped shaped the current landscape of film today. An absolute must see and horror classic.

The Blair Witch Project is available streaming on DirecTV and sling.

Oct. 24 – The Shining: My all time favorite Stephen King adaptation. Kubrick gives us a masterclass in storytelling, cinematography, and direction. With so much to learn and observe this is a film that requires multiple watches.

The Shining is available streaming on DirecTV and sling.

Oct. 25 – Psycho (1960): What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this film? A contribution to horror and proof that the genre itself is an art form.

Psycho is available streaming on peacock.

Oct. 26 – Candyman (1992): Taking place in a public housing project and featuring one of the most interesting horror movie villains around, Candyman isn’t your average slasher. It digs a little deeper to show a classist message that is still relevant.

Candyman (1992) is available streaming on DirecTV, fuboTV, and sling.

Oct. 27 – The Exorcist (1973): I’ve been frequently told by people that The Exorcist, “just isn’t scary anymore,” and I couldn’t disagree more. To this day and after several watches this movie still sends a chill up my spine. Its legacy is eternal.

The Exorcist (1973) is available streaming on DirecTV and sling.

Oct. 28 – The Thing: I love everything about this film, the paranoia, the terror, and the total feeling of freezing isolation. It also boasts some of the coolest special effects made practically. Its a real sucker punch of a film.

The Thing is available streaming on DirecTV and Showtime.

Oct. 29 – Get Out: One of the most important films of the 2010s and an insightful commentary on race relations, Get Out is a thriller where you don’t know whether you should be laughing or crying in fear, that’s what makes it scary.

Get Out is available to rent or purchase on most VOD services.

Oct. 30 – Alien: The very essence of Alien isn’t sci-fi but rather gothic horror. Carefully crafted by Ridley Scott, this movie is good not because of its complexity, but its lack of it. Being trapped in a giant tin can with that Alien will always be scary to me.

Alien is available streaming on DirecTV and HBO Max.

Oct. 31 – Halloween (1978): This is the movie I watch every single Halloween. I first saw it when I was a junior in high school and it affected me so much that I continue to watch it like some sort of sick ritual. Halloween is the horror genre distilled into a perfect formula.

Halloween (1978) is available streaming on The Roku Channel and on SHUDDER.

Well, there it is folks! This isn’t a list of what I think are the best horror movies, but rather a guide of movies that I think are fun to watch to get in the spooky mood during this festive month. There is a certain beauty in the Horror genre. Beneath all the blood and guts, the dirt and the grime, there is a certain catharsis that one feels after conquering a fear. It is a genre that is always innovating and always looking to evoke emotion. After all, what’s fun without a little fear? Happy Halloween!

ACTOR SPOTLIGHT: John David Washington

Before the release of Malcolm X (1992), Denzel Washington was already a rising star and an Oscar winner. Under the direction of Spike Lee, he would receive widespread acclaim and yet another nomination for portraying the famed activist and minister. Yet the film marked the genesis of another, unexpected career. In one of the final scenes of the film, young Black students in a Harlem classroom come to their feet and declare with resolve and reflection, “I am Malcolm X!” Lee invited Denzel’s oldest son, John David, to play one of the kids, and his parents agreed. Lee saw it as an opportunity to enhance the young boy’s resume, but even he couldn’t have anticipated that John David Washington would be fated to have a career as great as the film he debuted in.

Washington is the son of not one but two famous parents; his mother Pauletta Pearson Washington is also an actress and Juliard-trained pianist that has worked on Broadway as well as in film.  Acting appealed to Washington from a young age; he recalls being enchanted by his mother’s music and his father performing Shakespeare in the park [1]. But he also wanted something for himself, far from the impressive shadows of his successful and talented parents. He found that independence in playing football. Washington soon established himself as a talented running back in high school, an All-American recruited by several FBS colleges. His choice to attend and play for Morehouse College was unexpected, but he held the record there for career rushing yards for seven years. Upon graduation, he suited up as an undrafted free agent for the St. Louis Rams, but never made it to the field. Instead, he spent some time playing in the United Football League and overseas. While training for an attempted return to the NFL, all his athletic efforts ended with a pop; he had torn his Achilles tendon, and with it went his football dreams.

Despite the inherent dejection, the injury gave him the push to pursue his acting ambitions. His mother took him to his very first audition, while he was still on heavy painkillers from surgery and in a boot [2]. The get-up probably made an impression because after multiple, grueling auditions he landed the part in HBO’s Ballers (2015-2019) alongside Dwayne Johnson. Considering his background, playing the role of a controversial football star seemed tailor-made and Washington excelled. He continued his work in Indie films, starring in Love Beats Rhymes (2017), Monsters and Men (2018), and All Rise (2018). While filming The Old Man and the Gun (2018), he got a text from Spike Lee. The director invited him to read a book about the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, who also managed to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan. When he finished the compelling narrative and came back to report, Spike said, “See you this summer” [3]. Just like that, within 3 years of making a career change, Washington had the leading role in a historical drama that was nominated for Best Picture, for which his performance was universally praised.

John David Washington in a scene of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet | Warner Bros. Pictures.

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Washington’s next gig was the lead in a Christopher Nolan movie alongside Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branaugh. The mind-bending spy-thriller Tenet (2020) is now playing everywhere that theaters are open. It proves that Washington has what it takes to be an action star, as his athleticism enabled him to perform many of his own stunts. I think it’s also worth adding a seemingly small detail about his performance in a Hollywood where most movies steer away from actresses that are taller than their male costars. Debicki, who is 6’3” without heels, walks tall and brings her acting A-game while Washington holds his own with the confidence necessary to be her costar. That presence, along with his killer fight scenes, is going to make him an international household name.

He’s still young in the business, but Washington isn’t taking anything for granted. And now that he’s proven how well he stands on his own two feet, injuries and all, perhaps we can see a collaboration within the brilliant Washington family. It’s plain to see he inherited talent, but the success he can claim for himself. What we’ve seen suggests there’s much more ahead for the second-generation actor; will he claim an Oscar, suit up as a superhero, or portray a historical icon? Whatever the endeavor, John David Washington won’t be filling anyone’s shoes; he’ll be taking to red carpets in a pair all on his own.

Citations:

  1. The Untold Story of John David Washington
  2. Mahershala Ali & John David Washington – Actors on Actors
  3. Conversations with John David Washington of BLACKKKLANSMAN

ACTOR SPOTLIGHT: Jamie Foxx

As a new comedian, Eric Marlon Bishop was making a name for himself in L.A. at open mic nights. His impressions and physical comedy would frequently draw standing ovations. However, his success was undercut by the comedians who controlled the set list; they weren’t interested in being upstaged by a newbie, so they’d keep an eye out for his name and keep him off the list. Bishop’s solution was to sign up with different stage names every time he performed, using gender-neutral names because he noticed that there were far fewer female comedians at open mic and they were more likely to get called up [1]. One of these aliases would become his identity in the entertainment world as he rose to A-list status not only in comedy but also in music and film. Now, everybody knows him as Jamie Foxx.

Bishop/Foxx was an eminently talented kid; not only was he a great student and the first quarterback at his high school to pass for over 1,000 yards, but at 15 he became the musical director for his Baptist church choir [2]. He attributes much of this to his grandparents, who raised him in a strict Christian household in Terrell, TX. Foxx credits his grandmother as being his first acting coach because she taught him to “act like you got some sense” and “act like you’ve been somewhere” [3]. But from a young age, Foxx was a class clown. His antics would get him in trouble, until a third-grade teacher decided to use his talents to her advantage. As a reward for good behavior, she would let Foxx tell jokes to the class on Fridays, mostly bits he picked up from watching Johnny Carson [4]. Even though he got a university scholarship for piano performance, Foxx left higher education to pursue comedy in L.A. and marked that departure with a new name.

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in the 2004 film, Ray. His performance won Foxx an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

His gift for hilarity eventually enabled him to join the cast of In Living Color (1990-1994), a sketch comedy series that launched the careers of Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez. Foxx’s first movie role was soon to follow, making his debut alongside comedy legend Robin Williams in the movie Toys (1992). For his first few years, it seemed that comedy would define him; he was passed up for the role that won Cuba Gooding Jr. an Oscar in Jerry Maguire (1997) [5] and instead went on to play a character named Bunz in the much-maligned movie Booty Call (1997). His first dramatic role came as a struggling quarterback alongside Al Pacino in the sports drama Any Given Sunday (1999). Later he portrayed Drew Bundini Brown, trainer and cornerman in Ali (2001) with fellow comedian-turned-actor Will Smith in the titular role. He was critically praised for his performance as a day-dreaming taxi driver whose life derails when he picks up a hitman (played by Tom Cruise) in the thriller Collateral (2004). These, together with his talent for music and impersonations, laid the foundation for his critically-acclaimed role as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray (2004). His work won him the Oscar for Best Actor, not to mention the SAG, Critic’s Choice, BAFTA, and Golden Globe awards for the same category. Recently, he began work on a biopic for his friend Mike Tyson, with himself playing the much-debated boxer. The project is years in the making, but Foxx is already bulking up for the role, sharing his progress on Instagram.

From left to right: Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, and Jon Hamm in a scene of Baby Driver (2017) | Sony Pictures Releasing.

Despite his accolades, his detractors often claim that Jamie Foxx plays himself in every movie he stars in. While I wouldn’t call him chameleonic, I will defend the depth he brings to his characters. While still maintaining aspects of his signature charm, Foxx manages to pull off a menacing criminal in Baby Driver (2017), a cynical sports reporter in Valentine’s Day (2010), a U.S. President in White House Down (2013), a homeless musician with schizophrenia in The Soloist (2009), an all-in Marine staff sergeant in Jarhead (2005), and an freed slave bent on revenge in Django Unchained (2012), among his aforementioned projects. When he plays a record executive in the movie Dreamgirls (2006), he flawlessly transitions from likeable chum to sleazy dirt-bag. Even if his persona never fully disappears, I feel that his storytelling abilities are undeniable. Despite his talent for impersonations, I can’t think of an actor/comedian/musician to compare him to; he is simply his own category.

RELATED:

Project Power‘ Movie Review

I’ve chosen to focus on Foxx’s film career, but his career in music is no less impressive, and he has a Grammy to prove it. But if you feel like a laugh, then I recommend you watch “Wheel of Musical Impressions with Jamie Foxx” [6]. I’m pretty sure Jimmy Fallon created the game with Foxx in mind, and I can almost guarantee it will make you laugh at least once. If you’re in the mood for more dramatic performances, Foxx recently starred in Just Mercy (2019) as the wrongfully-convicted Walter McMillian and Project Power (2020), which is now streaming on Netflix. Though I wonder if there’s anything he can’t do, I believe Foxx’s x-factor is not his talent, but his personality. His free time is spent throwing wild parties, playing celebrity basketball, and shooting the bull with those in the biz [7]. In almost every interview, whether he is a guest or the host, Foxx begins by complimenting the person sitting across from him on their recent work. Though he may not be doing stand-up, his comedic timing enables him to make memorable connection with both viewers and his peers. The day he wants to take over late-night television, all he has to do is say the word. For now, I’ll just look forward to his vocal talents in the upcoming Pixar film Soul (2020).

Citations:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h63FotmAN_c
  2. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/foxx-jamie-1967/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2a1nzAciMc
  4. https://therake.com/stories/icons/jamie-foxx-goes-off-script/
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWxB-T-KgFk
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGidYBqBHVw
  7. https://theundefeated.com/features/jamie-foxx-baby-driver/

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Top 7 Most Heart-Wrenching PIXAR Moments

Scenes from PIXAR movies through the years.

With Onward’s upcoming release, and the buzz around it sayingthat it will leave you in tears, I rewatched some of the most heart-wrenching Pixar moments and ranked them. The criteria was: how many tears were shed, how long did I cry for, and the intensity of the tightness in my chest. I also took into account how I felt when I watched each moment for the first time, and the lasting effect each has had (There will be SPOILERS if you haven’t seen these movies yet).

Andy, from Tory Story 3, saying goodbye to his old friend, Woody. | PIXAR

7. Toy Story 3 – “Thanks, guys”

MOMENT: Andy pulls up to Bonnie’s house with his boxes marked “College” in his trunk. He grabs a box marked “Attic” from his car and walks over to give Bonnie the box containing his childhood toys. He goes through introducing Bonnie to each toy—from Jessie to the three aliens. Lastly, he pulls out Buzz Lightyear, pointing out his features. Bonnie looks inside the box and sees Woody and says “My cowboy!” to which Andy asks, “What’s he doing in there?” He is apprehensive before finally giving Woody to Bonnie along with the rest of the toys. Andy then gets into one last play session with Bonnie (the new owner) and all of his old toys. Afterwards, Andy gets back in his car to leave, waves goodbye to Woody and Buzz with a final, “Thanks, guys.”

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: This moment falls on the list mainly for nostalgic reasons. I remember being a senior in high school when Toy Story 3 came out, so when Andy gives away his toys and is heading off to college (the next chapter in his life) I could relate. The moment holds up as a heart-wrenching one because it symbolizes growing up but still not growing old by watching Andy getting in one last playtime with his old gang of toys, whom we all grew up with, too.

Sully (voiced by John Goodman) says goodbye to Boo in Monsters Inc. | PIXAR

6. Monsters Inc. – “Kitty has to go”

MOMENT: Mike says “Go, go grow up now,” as Sully walks with Boo into her room. Boo is so excited, giggling and showing Sully all of her toys in her room. Sully tucks Boo in bed and she puts her tiny little hand on his arm and says “Kitty.” In which he replies, “Kitty has to go.” After hugging goodbye, Sully leaves through her closet door. Boo gets out of bed and excitedly hops over to the closet door. She opens it and says “Boo!” expecting Kitty to be there… Just to see her bedroom closet was back to normal.

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: This moment ranked on my list because Sully is so in love with Boo throughout the film, so when he has to say goodbye to her, it’s just so sad. The second Boo puts her tiny hand on his arm and says “Kitty” in that pitiful little kid voice, I’m done for. Additionally, the endless hope of children is represented when she goes to open the closet door and expects to see Sully there and is faced with disappointment. That moment just breaks my heart.

Marlin discovers one survivor after an attack in Finding Nemo. | PIXAR

5. Finding Nemo – “Daddy’s got you”

MOMENT: Marlin and his wife, Coral, are admiring their new home at the edge of the Drop Off. Marlin is so excited and Coral is doubting their choice because there is so much open space. It is then revealed that they’ve got all of their eggs in a tucked-away space below their anemone. Coral says that she likes the name “Nemo” for one of their 400 eggs. They begin laughing and playing when Coral shoots out of the anemone (with Marlin after her) , to reveal a terrifyingly empty reef. Coral is frozen staring at a barracuda who is looking right at her. She dives down to protect their eggs and Marlin attempts to stop her, getting knocked out in the process. The scene cuts to Marlin finding that Coral is gone, along with what appears to be all of their eggs. Marlin is in despair, when he finds one surviving egg. “Daddy’s got you. I promise I will never let anything happen to you, Nemo,” he says as he cradles the egg in his fins. 

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: This moment is so heart-wrenching because Pixar spent the first three minutes of the film making the viewer invest in this adorable clownfish couple who are so excited to be parents. Then they rip that story out from under you in a crushing reveal of the barracuda on the edge of the reef. When Marlin covers his eyes in despair and denial to then see one lone egg, you’re hit with another swift kick to the gut when he holds the egg and names it Nemo, in honor of Coral. It’s also on this list because of the musical score that comes in right before Marlin discovers Nemo. Every time I hear the first notes of Thomas Newman’s “Nemo Egg,” it puts me on the verge of tears.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) sings to Mama Coco in Coco. | PIXAR

4. Coco – “Remember me”

MOMENT: Miguel has just discovered the truth about his family and Mama Coco’s papa. He works so hard to get back to her and reveals that if Coco forgets about her papa, Hector, he’ll be gone forever. Miguel shows her the photograph with desperate tears in his eyes. His parents and grandma bust in the room, scolding Miguel for what they think has distressed Mama Coco. Rather than apologizing, he picks up Hector’s guitar and begins to sing “Remember Me.” Coco begins to liven up and sing the song with Miguel. The rest of the family is awestruck watching the two sing together. Coco smiles and tells her family about how her Papa used to sing her that song. The entire family is left with tears in their eyes.

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: When Miguel plays the first three notes of “Remember Me,” I’m already in a mess of tears and snot. This moment is not only on the list because of the song, but also because of how it represents a family bonding over a lost story of their ancestry. It shows so beautifully how important it is to celebrate families differences and never forget the ones who came before us. As the song that follows this scene states, “Our love for each other will live on forever.” 

Carl reminisces about the past and his Ellie in Up. | PIXAR

3. Up – “Paradise Falls”

MOMENT: The moment really begins for me when Carl and Ellie get married and Carl is carrying Ellie into the old house where they first met. Their love story is told through a series of heartwarming snippets of their life together. The moment takes its first turn when a scene of them decorating a nursery is followed by a scene with them in a fertility office where Ellie is crying, holding her face in her hands. It picks back up as they save money for a trip to Paradise Falls. The montage continues through years of Ellie straightening Carl’s tie, both cleaning the house, and going to work together. Carl buys a ticket to South America, takes Ellie to their spot (where they always watch the sky) to surprise her, but Ellie can’t make it and falls on their walk up… Ellie’s now in the hospital and Carl sends her a blue balloon, just as he did when they were kids. The scene cuts to Carl holding the blue balloon in an empty funeral, then on his porch, and finally walking into their home, alone.

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: I feel like this moment does not need an explanation for why it’s so heart-wrenching, but here I’ll explain why it hits hard for me. I remember vividly watching this movie in theaters with my little brother. I was 16 and he was 10 at the time. I remember being so surprised that we just witnessed an entire epic love story told in the course of 11 minutes. We both were crying at the end of this moment and looked at each other with tear-stained cheeks. Our relationship grew stronger that day, being able to share such a special moment together. I think that I aspired to have what Carl and Ellie had: a love story so simple with traditions, like the blue balloon and Grape Soda pin. I feel lucky now, at 26 to say that I am lucky to have that Carl and Ellie type of love, which is why I now cry throughout the entire first 11 minutes of Up, not just the moment when Ellie passes. 

Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is embraced by her mother in Brave. | PIXAR

2. Brave – “I just want you back”

MOMENT: The time is running out for Merida to figure out how to turn her mother from a bear back into a human. The sun is rising on the second day and she thinks she has it figured out when she repairs the tapestry she damaged. She drapes the tapestry over Eleanor’s back in hopes that will change her into a human once again. As the sun rises, it dawns on her that her mother has changed into “full bear” when the human likeness in her eyes fades to black. She begins to sob and says, “You’ve always been there for me. You’ve never given up on me. I just want you back.” While still crying, and clinging to her mother, the sun continues to rise. The scene pulls back to reveal that Eleanor is, once again, human. Merida is overcome with joy and says, “You changed!” To which Eleanor replies, “Oh, darling, we both have.”

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: This moment makes it on the list because I can relate to Merida and her mother’s relationship—one in which there are clear differences in personalities, aspirations, and beliefs. I think a lot of people can relate to not always seeing eye-to-eye with their parents, so when the two characters change their outlook to one of acceptance rather than trying to change the other, it truly does tug at my heartstrings. In rewatching this scene, tears were most definitely shed.

Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind) says goodbye in Inside Out. | PIXAR

1. Inside Out – “Take her to the moon for me”

MOMENT: Joy and Bing Bong are stuck down in the memory dump, when Joy realizes they can try to use Bing Bong’s rocket to launch themselves out of there to get back to their mission of helping Riley. They sing Bing Bong’s song in an attempt to launch themselves out of the pit twice, coming up short each time. Bing Bong convinces Joy to try one more time. Before the rocket launches off the ramp, Bing Bong jumps out and stays in the memory dump. Joy makes it out and looks back down at Bing Bong as he is fading away. His last words are, “Take her to the moon for me, okay?” before he disappears, symbolizing being completely forgotten by Riley.

WHY IT’S SO HEART-WRENCHING: The way this entire movie so wonderfully reflects what it is like to grow out of being a child and into a teen is unbelievably well-done. So when this moment occurs three-quarters of the way through the film, I’m left feeling like a preteen all over again: insecure, a little hopeless, and confused. Bing Bong represented Riley’s childlike imagination and the carefree state of what it’s like to be a kid. Therefore, when Bing Bong disappears and is forgotten by Riley, my heart is literally aching. In addition, Bing Bong sacrifices himself, unbeknownst to Joy, so that she can make it out of the memory dump and continue to bring balance back into Riley’s emotions. It’s such a beautiful and deeply sad moment that will bring me to tears just thinking about it.

It was so hard to narrow down a list like this with so many heart-wrenching moments to choose from in Pixar’s vast lineup. I would love to know what your top heart-wrenching moments are in Pixar! Post them in the comments below.

“CONTINUE?” A Look at the History of Video Game Movies

John Leguizamo (left) and Bob Hoskins (right) in Super Mario Bros. (1993) | Buena Vista Pictures

The concept of turning video games into film adaptations is a great idea on paper. After all, a video game in essence is a playable movie—there are characters, a story, writing, direction, and in some cases even editing that all coalesce into a playable adventure. However, over the years video game film adaptations have historically ranged from mediocre to downright terrible. As a gamer myself who has put hundreds upon hundreds of hours into different games, this is something I would love to see succeed. With the release of Sonic the Hedgehog this month, I thought it would be worthwhile looking into how far we’ve come with video game films and where I hope they can go.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Buena Vista Pictures (Disney)
Rated: PG
Run Time: 104 minutes
Director: Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel

Ahh yes. The one that started it all. When the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released alongside “Super Mario Bros.” it turned a goofy little plumber named Mario into a multimillion dollar franchise. With such a strong market behind it, Hollywood Pictures (a division of Walt Disney Studios at the time) obtained the rights to make a feature-length film based mostly on the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario World. The film is a strange one to say the least. While Mario games are often remembered for their bright settings, goofy creatures, and upbeat music, the Super Mario Bros. movie is a dark, dour, and abrasive take on a very bright franchise. The biggest problem with this movie is its ultra realistic and grounded take on the Mario franchise. It is an absolute train wreck of a film but there were some things I actually really enjoyed. The special effects are very unique and I even like Dennis Hopper hamming it up as King Koopa, who I guess is supposed to be Bowser? Given the ultra thin source material that the game provides, it’s hard to actually be mad at this movie. They did the best they could with what they had and the result is a total bob-omb.

Street Fighter (1994)

Universal Pictures
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 102 minutes
Director: Steven E. da Souza

Growing up I absolutely loved “Street Fighter 2.” I remember going to the arcade, putting a quarter in the machine, and getting absolutely pummeled by some kid twice my age. It was awesome. The concept of “Street Fighter” is simple: you pick one character from the multinational cast and you duke it out against another in a Best of 3 match where first character to lose all of their life is knocked out. Each character has their own individual moves such as Ryu’s iconic “Hadoken” fireball and Ken’s flaming “Shoryuken” uppercut. In fact this game was so popular it’s estimated that the revenue for it is roughly $10.61 billion—which brings us to the film. Made in 1994 and starring action movie super star John Claude Van Damme as Guile, the film was actually a commercial success grossing $99 million against a $35 million budget. Critically, however, the movie was not well-received. After re-watching the movie, it’s not hard to see why. It is another mess of a film: given its flimsy source material, the dialogue is hilariously bad, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, and our lead actors are really never given much to work with. Van Damme is mostly fine but he isn’t ever given the chance to show off much of his martial arts skills. Also how can you be Guile without that crazy broom hair? Just go ahead and skip this movie, I would rather get pummeled in the arcade all over again than have to watch this crap.

Warcraft (2016)

Universal Pictures
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 123 minutes
Director: Duncan Jones

Let’s fast forward now to 2016 as I couldn’t bring myself to watch another 90’s video game movie, or early 2000’s video game movie for that matter. When I was in high school, I started playing “World of Warcraft” (“WoW”): an massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game (RPG) that takes place within the setting of Blizzard’s Warcraft series. In its heyday, “WoW” boasted a player base of 10 million active players all over the world. It became a huge phenomenon that has greatly affected pop culture—from episodes of South Park to hit Internet memes such as LEEROOOOOY JENKINSSSSS (I had to). So with such a rabid fanbase, a movie had to be made for it. Well, after years and years of development issues, we finally got Warcraft in 2016. The movie is actually based on the first “Warcraft” game created in 1996 and tells the story of the first encounters between the humans and orcs as they go to war. Directed by the awesome Duncan Jones, this movie was panned critically and was actually considered a critical disappointment in the box office grossing only $47.4 million here in the United States and $439 million worldwide; regardless of that, I absolutely love this movie. It is absolutely flawed with some very questionable writing, bad character development, and some truly terrible editing but there is something about it that I just enjoy. Maybe it’s the little winks and nods to the fans, or seeing the size and scale of the Orcs in live action with some incredible computer graphic images (CGI). My fanboy bias is totally winning me over but whatever—I think it’s totally worth a watch and I really hope we get a sequel.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Paramount Pictures
Rated: PG
Run Time: 99 minutes
Director: Jeff Fowler

Growing up, I was always more of a Sonic fan. Back in the good ol’ days of the 90s, you were either a Nintendo kid or a Sega kid (I was spoiled and had both), so you were also either a Mario kid or a Sonic kid. Sonic was one of the coolest characters I had ever seen. He had so much personality packed into his little character that really spoke to me—he would tap his feet if he didn’t move; when he reached max speed, his character pose would change; and when he got smacked around, he had a hilarious dizzy expression. I kept playing Sonic games as I grew up, and he is one of my favorite video game characters of all time—a true pop culture icon! Last year when they revealed how he would look in the live action adaptation I was truly horrified, and many shared the same sentiment. His weird humanoid body and super creepy teeth made me want to burn this movie in the hottest fires imaginable and never see it again. However, in a rare turn of events, Paramount Studios actually listened to the fans and decided to delay the film so that they could redo all of the CGI for Sonic. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I saw this film a few weeks ago and I’m happy to say that it wasn’t the total dumpster fire that we were all expecting from the first trailer. Ben Schwartz is great as Sonic and Jim Carrey is absolutely hilarious as Dr. Robotnik. The story is pretty run-of-the mill and predictable, but I still laughed and smiled and didn’t leave the theater with the haunting image of Sonic’s ultra realistic teeth.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) | Buena Vista Pictures

Frankly, I see the future of video game movies as something that can continue to get better over time. The biggest key is for these film studios to respect the source material. Just like how Marvel has succeeded with their franchises, I believe that studios can propel video game movies to greater heights—as long as they trust in what the fans want and pay respect to the properties we love and adore.

All 24 ‘BOND’ Theme Songs Ranked

Grammy winner Billie Eilish and brother/collaborator Finneas O’Connell wrote “No Time To Die” for the new 007 film.

Music is part of a film: both as instrumental scores and vocal performances. Music in a film can have the ability to shape emotional responses, create rhythms in scenes, and/or to comment on the action. With the release of Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” (along with the newest Bond film, No Time to Die) makes one wonder what precisely is the best theme and why? People have had heated debates on who is the best portrayal of the Bond character but the themes aren’t debated as much. The purpose of a theme is to establish a mood and to provide an audible cue that reminds one of the film. The instrumental Bond theme starts off increasing with intensity right up to the guitar riff and then it repeats until it reaches the climax. This song has anyone instantly thinking of ‘James Bond’. This is what a song with vocals has to do. As No Time to Die is apparently the final chapter in the Daniel Craig Bond series, one should go back and look at everything that has come before it. The theme songs are as important as the films themselves and deserve a glance at what makes them good or bad, and why. A successful song will have recognizable notes that make the listener feel like they are driving an Aston Martin instead of their Ford Focus, or drinking a martini instead of their Bud Light.

24. “For Your Eyes Only” – Sheena Easton in For Your Eyes Only

This ballad sounds good by Easton but it is completely out of place for a Bond film. It tries to add what Carly Simon did with “Nobody Does It Better” but it feels like it belongs in a corny romance movie. This song is on the list is because there has to be a “worst” song.

23. “Die Another Day” – Madonna in Die Another Day

Madonna’s biggest songs come from the 1980s but seemingly this feels exactly that: it has synthesizers and her voice is distorted. There is some violin in the background but this song was definitely a step back from other films’ songs. It seemed to care about making the song a pop hit that could play on the radio. Like the film it represents, this song seems to die as soon as it starts. The only reason is that it is not 24 is that “For Your Eyes Only” is definitely worse.

22. “A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran in A View to a Kill

This song is straight out of the 1980s, as one would expect when listening to Duran Duran. It can transport listeners to the 1980s very successfully with synthesizers. It’s as if someone combined Billy Joel and Phil Collins. However, the 80s were not known for elegance, which really takes listeners away from the “Bond” effect.

21. “We Have All the Time in the World” – Louis Armstrong in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

If one listens to this song outside of the Bond world, it is very good. When one listens to Louis Armstrong’s voice in the context of the film, he is able to sing about love and sorrow that speaks to the film’s plot. However, Armstrong’s voice transports the listener to Italy or France—not to the place in between where the film takes place, Switzerland. Would listeners think of Bond for this song? Not really.

20. “You Only Live Twice” – Nancy Sinatra in You Only Live Twice

While the opening few notes feel similar to the Bond theme and the song has ability to transport the listener, the song does not contribute a look at the character of Bond or give any danger to the film. Also, the film takes place in Japan and this song won’t transport the listener to Japan, but rather Italy which makes no sense. The song is nice in itself but does not scream “Bond.”

19. “Moonraker” – Shirley Bassey in Moonraker

While Shirley Bassey is very well known for her Bond songs, this is her weakest song seeing as it does not add much to Bond’s character. It’s not awful (mostly because of Bassey’s voice) but it’s not that memorable either. Her voice can go as far as the stars, as Bond does in the film, but the song itself fails to take off.

18. “Another Way to Die” – Jack White and Alicia Keys in Quantum of Solace

Alicia Keys has the voice to make a fantastic James Bond theme; however, her mashup with Jack White seems off. It feels that the studio wanted to keep the rock aspect that Cornell brought with “You Know My Name.” Unfortunately, this song has a lot of messy aspects that touch on Bond’s qualities. In that sense, however, it does match the film that it is from very well.

17. “All-Time High” – Rita Coolidge in Octopussy

Unlike Easton’s attempt, this song is able to keep some of the qualities that James Bond is known for. The saxophone, strings, piano, guitar, and band combination, takes the audience to a similar place as Carly Simon but it is not as successful. The lyrics say “all-time high” but it only reaches the “all-time mediocre” level of Bond songs.

16. “The Living Daylights” – A-ha in The Living Daylights

Similar to “A View to Kill,” this song screams “the 1980s” with its synthesizers. However, this time around, A-ha keeps some of the traditional horns in their song. This gives a mysterious feeling to this obviously 1980s song, which does do some good work on taking a listener to a James Bond living in the 80s. However, again, the 80s were not known for their elegance.

15. “From Russia with Love” – Matt Monro in From Russia with Love

This song was released with the second film in the series. It seems to touch on the traveling aspect of Bond (he does travel to a lot of exotic places such as Russia or Italy); however, the song seems really out of place as it feels like a combination of the places that Bond travels to in the film. The film takes place mostly in Turkey and Russia but begins in Jamaica and ends in Italy. Having the theme sound similar to some of those makes sense but this song feels safe. It’s not a bad song by any means and it gives a very lounge feeling. Listeners can feel like they are traveling with Bond but it does not speak to the character.

14. “Nobody Does It Better” – Carly Simon in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Although Bond is mostly known for having a different woman in every film, Carly Simon’s ballad differs from a lot of the Bond theme songs as it gives this loving side of Bond that viewers haven’t seen before. Though a new woman is introduced in the film, it still adds a mystery of who is this woman that Bond loves? There is a slight elegance to the way Simon sings which does allow for some reconnection with the Bond character.

13. “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney and Wings in Live and Let Die.

As a former Beatle, McCartney is able to lure his listeners on name alone. He croons for the first 47 seconds then he adds a change in key and a guitar riff. Each time before the instrumental chorus hits, the song hypes up the song. McCartney seems to say that James Bond is no longer the man who you think he is: he is no longer only the suave man he was but he is now someone to look at as an action hero; he is able to fight with intensity. Even though there is one bit of the song that seems out of place (1:27), this song speaks James Bond; however, it doesn’t scream James Bond as some of the other songs do. Outside of the James Bond context, though, it is one of the most popular among most listeners.

12. “Tomorrow Never Dies” – Sheryl Crow in Tomorrow Never Dies

This song starts off like a lot of the other songs do: teasing you of the world behind it. Crow’s lyrics and vocals are fairly captivating and capture the essence of a good Bond song. Some of the lyrics even state precisely what a Bond film is known for. It may not be the top of the list but it is definitely a very good Bond theme song though the title of the song/film may seem off.

11. “Thunderball” – Tom Jones in Thunderball

This theme has obviously been inspired by John Barry with its horns, and is very similar to “Goldfinger,” but not as good. It isn’t bad by any means, but it does feel unoriginal as the only difference is the singer and the film’s plot.

10. “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage in The World is Not Enough

The title of the song alone speaks to the Bond character. He has everything he wants: women, cars, a good job, and a license to kill—but he is still not fulfilled. Garbage’s name does not speak the song’s quality; the loud orchestra and the vocals of Shirley Manson successfully keep to the man of mystery’s origins. Although it’s still good, it feels a little short of some of the other theme songs.

9. “Licence to Kill” – Gladys Knight in Licence to Kill

This film is one of mt favorite James Bond films because he steps away from MI6, something he hasn’t done before. Sometimes he has to speak to his idea of justice and stop caring about being covert. While this may not be a typical Bond film, it is a remake of him and is almost a comparable character to Batman. This film’s song is obviously a remake of “Goldfinger,” but works well to speak to the character. It screams “the 1980s” with its synthesizers, but still transports us to an earlier time, thanks to Knight’s voice. She is able to twist this 80’s song into a Motown love ballad. However, the only thing that makes the song feel Bond-like is the use of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.”

8. “The Man with the Golden Gun” – Lulu in The Man with the Golden Gun

The introduction does feel very Bond-like and Lulu is able to replicate the feeling felt in “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey—she sings about the villains and uses some great instrumentals. It is a little more of a pop song than the other songs below it on this list; however, that’s not really a bad thing because it screams about the popularity of James Bond.

7. “No Time to Die” – Billie Eilish in No Time to Die

On the first listen, Eilish’s voice does not fit the Bond theme. She seems to mumble a lot of her lyrics. The song feels epic but her voice does not replicate that. This feeling can continue on to the second and maybe the third listening. After perhaps a few more listens (and also listening to how other Bond songs have sounded) her new song is not that bad, but that feels more due to the instrumentals than her singing. Her voice sounds creepy but also mysterious, which speaks to the Bond character on the later point. When she hits the climactic note, it feels almost similar to Adele’s “Skyfall.” But overall, the song does depend on the instrumentals more than her voice. The instrumentals feel exactly how a Bond theme should. It can definitely grow on someone after a few listens that may make people appreciate Eilish’s addition to the list of Bond themes.

6. “Goldeneye” – Tina Turner in Goldeneye

The title alone will instantly say that there is a similarity to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.” The way it uses strings and horns is also very similar; but that does not mean this song is not unique. Turner’s voice is her own and the song speaks for itself on why it belongs at the top of this list. It starts off by creating an environment of mystery but the lyrics state that there is romance and revenge in the shadows. When Turner sings, “This time I won’t miss, now I’ve got you in my sight,” listeners know that studios have realized what works for Bond songs and asked themselves, “If something isn’t broken, why should you fix it?” This song still has some 80’s feel to it but it transports the listener right back into a Bond film in the best way possible.

5. “Writing’s on the Wall” – Sam Smith in Spectre

In 2015, Sam Smith was known for his ballads which are mostly about breakups—Smith’s performance is fairly representative of Bond. He searches for love but is unable to in his line of work. The epicness of the instrumentals adds to Smith’s voice, which fits perfectly well into a Bond theme. It is the second film to hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and it is the second to win an Oscar. However, it does feel a slight bit of a let down after Adele’s “Skyfall.” Similar to how Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album was considered a let down after “Thriller” because of the latter’s enormous success.

4.”You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell in Casino Royale

As the film was the start of a new Bond in Daniel Craig, Cornell seems to state that, even so the audience knows who he is singing about. While it is not a ballad and more of a rock song, Cornell still establishes a very good update to the Bond songs. The song has more guitars that create this dangerous and new feel. It almost feels like listeners have heard this song before but not really. This song is almost perfect as a Bond song but not quite there as it doesn’t convey elegance but it speaks it while shouting mystery and danger.

3. “Diamonds Are Forever” – Shirley Bassey in Diamonds are Forever

Though the production of diamonds is questionable at best, they are known to be shiny and supposedly “a girl’s best friend.” They are the toughest mineral on the planet and can have ages between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years. James Bond is known for his elegance, so connecting these two items makes complete sense; and when Shirley Bassey is said to add even more elegance, listeners know what to expect. Her returning voice sings about how diamonds will never lie but the music says that there is something hidden behind the beauty. The instrumentals feel eerie in a way that produces a mystery that the elegant James Bond must figure out.

2. “Skyfall” – Adele in Skyfall

Prior to 2012, there was perhaps one artist that almost everyone wanted to sing a Bond song—and that was Adele. At the time, she was riding the high of her second album, 21, and people were comparing her to Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. Everyone knew that it was coming, and boy did it arrive with a bang. Adele’s powerful voice captures the mood and style of the previous themes while also keeping the dark and moody aspect of the film. The song made Daniel Craig cry, and it was the first Bond song to win an Oscar.

1. ” Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey in Goldfinger

This has become one of the most iconic songs when it comes to Bond. One who listens will instantly think 007. It starts off with very epic and loud trumpets that establish who the villain of the film is. This starts the 1964 film with a knowledge of who Bond will face. Any listener can hear the inspiration from John Barry in the song. The instrumentals also scream suave and this ballad by Bassey instantly places you in a lounge sipping on a martini, shaken not stirred. She is about to tell her audience a story and everyone is ready to listen.

Well, there you have it. All 24 ‘BOND’ movie theme songs. I’d love to know what your thoughts are on these iconic songs, and which are you favorite(s). Let me know in the comments below.

BOX OFFICE BULLETIN: Sonic the Hedgehog Remains Unbeaten

Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) | Paramount Pictures

Coming into its second weekend, Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog ran right past the competition to remain atop the box office, beating out new comer and Harrison Ford led, The Call of the Wild. If you’re surprised by these results, either you haven’t seen the movie, or you don’t pay attention to box office numbers (I personally recommend you do both). Sonic the Hedgehog dropped 55% overall from its opening weekend debut, but still brought in $26.1 million. Its domestic box office total now exceeds $106 million…in just 10 days. This is already good for fourth all-time domestic box office gains for a video game adapted movie. Sonic the Hedgehog, based on the iconic SEGA video game character, added 31 new theaters to its domestic showing, proving just how popular our little blue speedster has become.

Harrison Ford appears in a scene of The Call of the Wild | 20th Century Studios

Acting legend, Harrison Ford, took on the role of John Thornton in 20th Century Studio’s remake of The Call of the Wild, which came in second its opening weekend. The movie brought in $24.8 million having debuted in 3,752 theaters across the U.S. These three day numbers were a promising sign for this well-known tale, as pre-ticket sales had indicated a smaller opening than the actual results. However, for a movie as expensive as The Call of the Wild, it will have an uphill battle as it continues to make up ground on its estimated $135 million production budget. The movie debuted in 40 international markets, and managed to gross $15.4 million, with France, the U.K. and Mexico being the top 3 international markets respectively. Reviews for the movie from audiences across the county have been glowing. CinemaScore handed the movie an A-, while the audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently sits at 90% with 3,648 reviews submitted.

20th Century Studios (formally named 20th Century Fox, now owned by Disney) is still rolling through it’s pre-Disney lineup of movies that began production before being sold to the Mouse with the money. Recent 20th Century Fox movies that were also taken on by Disney due to the acquisition: Ford v Ferrari, Ad Astra, and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn | Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. (WB) Pictures’ Birds of Prey takes third place with adding $6.8 million domestically. Birds of Prey fell 60% from its second weekend, and lost 671 screens across the U.S. Don’t expect the movie to remain in theaters much longer, as WB will attempt to recuperate their losses with DVD and Blu-ray sales. The movie has made $173 million worldwide, which still has it dead last in box office gains for a DCEU movie. A spot previously held by 2019’s Shazam!, which made a total of $366 million globally.

Fourth place was Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys for Life, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which continues to impress even in its sixth week in theaters. Bad Boys for Life earned $5.8 million, bringing its domestic total to over $191 million. Rounding out the Top 5 is Brahms: The Boy II. In its opening weekend, the movie debuted at $5.8 million; a sequel to the the 2016 film, The Boy (which grossed over $64 million) has its work cut out for itself in replicating those results. If I were the studio, I wouldn’t hold my breath…

Here’s a look at how other movies still in theaters are performing:

Fantasy Island$22.2 million domestically, $33.8 million worldwide total.

The Photograph$17.6 million domestically.

Downhill$7.4 million domestically.

The Gentlemen$33.6 million domestically, $87.5 million worldwide total.

*Note: All financial data is provided courtesy The Numbers, my favorite source for box office data.

The Oscars: According to Smash Critic

Alright guys. So there have already been some other Backseat Directors articles on the Oscars that you should totally check out. I want to use this spot to simply list out the results for the winners, whether I think they were deserving, and who were some snubs. I’ll look mostly at the more popular categories as well as a couple that I thought were especially noteworthy.

Directed by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story was nominated for Best Picture at The 92nd Academy Awards | NETFLIX

BEST PICTURE

Winner: Parasite
My Pick: Marriage Story
Nomination Snubs: Peanut Butter Falcon, and Farewell

To be fair, I think Parasite was a wholly unique and engaging movie with stunning visuals and insightful themes of class divisions and animosity; if anything, it’s awesome that it made history as the first foreign language film to win Best Picture. However, of all the movies that were nominated, this was probably the least likely to inspire or resonate emotionally. It’s a realistically cynical (albeit important) movie, but I don’t think it deserved Best Picture.

Even though this next movie was in no way a true competitor with Parasite in certain areas, I believe that it had it all when it comes to a worthy ‘Best Picture’ win: Marriage Story. No other nominee was so timelessly applicable nor poignantly touching. The acting was heartbreaking and heartwarming, the screenplay masterful; and the topic something that most can either connect with from personal experience, or at least better understand, all because of how genuine this film was. I suppose the next big trend-breaker is when a Netflix original will win Best Picture—maybe that’s why the foreign language film, Roma, didn’t win the title last year (and lost to Green Book, no less).

Greta Gerwig at The 92nd Academy Awards | Steve Granitz/Getty Images

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Bong Joon Ho (Parasite)
My Pick: Bong Joon Ho
Nomination Snub: Greta Gerwig (Little Women)

Honestly, I’m okay with this one. I still wish Best Picture went elsewhere, but Bong Joon Ho at least deserved some individual recognition.

I do think it would’ve been awesome to see Quentin Tarantino finally win Best Director (which is long overdue); Todd Phillips and Sam Mendes both in their own way brought game-changing movies to light, and I would’ve been happy with any of them winning.

At the very least, Greta Gerwig probably should’ve been nominated. I wouldn’t necessarily replace another nominee with her, but I don’t understand why she was passed up. It would’ve at least helped to put the Oscars in a more inclusive light (only one woman has ever won ‘Best Director’), and the fact that she deserved the nod made it all the more confusing. 

Joaquin Phoenix appears in a scene of Joker | Warner Bros. Pictures

BEST LEAD ACTOR

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
My Pick: Joaquin Phoenix (second choice is Adam Driver for Marriage Story)
Nomination Snubs: Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) and Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)
Come on… This was a shoe-in, and honestly, some of the best acting of all time. One thing I’ll mention about the brilliance of this specific portrayal of the Joker is that it takes a villain—and shows that he wasn’t always the eloquent, cool, untouchable Ledger-like antagonist that we’ve all come to know, obsess over, and see in others like Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh. Like most disturbed individuals, there’s more to the person (like social ineptness, vulnerability, and utter tragedy) that leads that person to break and then rebuild for the worse. That’s Joaquin’s Joker, and it’s the most captivating performance of at least this year. Great win.

Renée Zellweger appears in a scene of Judy | Roadside Attractions

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

Winner: Renée Zellweger (Judy)
My Pick: Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Nomination Snub: Awkwafina (Farewell)

I can’t really say much here. I didn’t happen to see most of the movies with nominated ‘Best Actresses’, including this one. I thought that Judy was going to be your run-of-the-mill, Oscar-bait movie that would be quickly slated and ignored (I honestly don’t know a single person who saw it). I was surprised when Zellweger got nominated and dumbfounded when she had won. I guess I’ll definitely need to give Judy a watch. 

I will say, I was really hoping for Scarlett Johansson to win. If you haven’t seen the movie Marriage Story, go and watch the fight scene between Adam Driver’s and her character, along with her monologue when she’s with her lawyer. Absolutely amazing. 

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood | Sony Pictures | Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood)
My Pick: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Nomination Snubs: Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) and Shia Labeouf (Honey Boy)

I really enjoyed Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. He’s honestly one of the biggest highlights of the film… but it’s solely because he’s just cool. Super cool. He won for a role where he basically plays himself (or at least, how we all see him).

I can’t believe Pitt’s performance won over Tom Hanks’. If you haven’t seen the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? that was snubbed at last year’s Oscars, you should absolutely see it. Count how many times you cry, acknowledge how you feel about this near-perfect human being, and then watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and see how it compares. Hanks did such a good job so that all those feelings came right back as if I was watching the real man. In a day and age where kindness, sensitivity, and gentleness are tossed aside for power, imperviousness, and cynicism, this portrayed figure couldn’t be more appropriate. I know Hanks has two Oscars already and Pitt may have been long overdue for his, but if we’re basing this on performance and its impact alone (and forgetting “alumni” context) it’s obvious who should have won. 

Scarlett Johansson in a scene of Jojo Rabbit | Fox Searchlight Pictures

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
My Pick: Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit)
Nomination Snubs: none

Why Laura Dern wasn’t nominated for her role in Little Women over this is beyond me, but the fact that she won is downright bizarre. Her role isn’t bad—it’s actually interesting: she’s an aggressive, feministic lawyer that’s just as sisterly with her client as she is cutthroat with her client’s husband. But in the end, it’s really not a memorable character as she’s completely overshadowed by Driver and Johansson’s performances… And I swear she only had like 10 minutes of screen time. 

Very rarely does an actor/actress get two different nominations for two different roles, but Johansson truly deserved both. In Jojo Rabbit she’s a quirky, playful mom to the main character that makes for some hilarious, and touching scenes between mother and son. She’s also a single parent, and works as a steadfast moral compass to her Nazi youth son and others—a strong, impactful female character. I would’ve loved to see her at least win this.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY BITS

  • Jojo Rabbit wins Best Original Writing.

    I was pumped with this result! Taika Waititi has managed to make a name for himself rapidly in Hollywood. All of his movies are just fantastic (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpoeple, Thor: Ragnarok), and this may be his best work so far. He was able to bring a story that used an extremely difficult era and subject matter to create genuine laughter, tears, and celebration of triumph over (apparently) clumsy and whimsical evil. If anything, it’s encouraging to see a film this lighthearted and optimistic receive accolades, and I wish it happened more often. Also, Waititi is the first person of Maori (New Zealand aborigine) descent to win an Oscar!

  • 1917 wins Best Cinematography.

    All I really need to say about this movie is that it’s a spectacle during the entire runtime. What makes 1917 stand out, and what should put it near the top (if not at the top of every ‘Best War Movie’ list) is the master class cinematography by Roger Deakins. Honestly, guys, the whole flick is like two different shots both lasting about an hour, and the way the camera follows the intensity and action is something that will catch the eye of even the most unsuspecting movie goer. Please try so hard to see this in theaters, or see it on a jumbo screen somehow, because this will prove to be one of the best movie going experiences you’ve had in a while. 

  • Joker wins Best Music (Original Score).

    I would have been okay with a number of the nominees winning. Randy Newman’s work in Marriage Story was as tear inducing as ever. Probably my favorite composer ever, Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, Finding Nemo, American Beauty), built up the tension to another degree in 1917. But honestly, Joker’s score was probably the most fittingly haunting music I’ve heard in a film. It’s truly a unique style, and now I can’t imagine any other sound wordlessly telling the story of a misfortuned psychopath. On top of that, (and I did not know the composer’s gender until she came on stage) Hildur Gudnadottir is the first woman to win Best Original Score ever! Being that the Oscars have often been polarizing for some with a feeling of exclusion toward certain race and gender, this was an awesome win.

  • Eminem’s Performance.

    A lot of people felt like Eminem’s performance of “Lose Yourself” during the Oscars felt misplaced and random. I for one loved it, especially when I considered the context. At the 2003 Oscars, Eminem was nominated and won Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself”, which he had written for 8 Mile. Thinking that there was no way he would win, he not only didn’t attend the Oscars, but he was apparently asleep at home when it was announced that he had won. It was great to see him finally give his acceptance speech of sorts 17 years later.

  • Shia Labeouf and Zack Gottsagen announce Best Live-Action Short Winner.

    As previously mentioned, I think Peanut Butter Falcon was snubbed for not getting a nod for Best Picture (or for at least something else). Suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen it, you need to. It’s become one of my all-time favorite feel-good movies. It utilizes a Mark Twain-type atmosphere, and takes two unlikely actors (a pretty much blacklisted child star, and a man with Down syndrome) puts them in powerfully suitable roles and makes a beautiful relationship/adventure out of it. During and before production, Shia made sure that he and Zack spent plenty of quality time together. He even credits Zack for being part of the reason why he’s seemingly got his life back in order. And seeing them up there together—double teaming the announcement—was a really sweet moment.

Alright guys, let me know if you agree/disagree, who you would’ve picked to win, snubs I missed, or thoughts in general about the Oscars!

BOX OFFICE BULLETIN: Sonic Zooms Past the Competition

Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) in Sonic the Hedgehog | Paramount Pictures

Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog just set the record for best opening weekend for a video game adapted movie, earning a whopping $58 million domestically, and $101 million total worldwide.  Our little blue speedster earned the number one spot for a video game adapted movie, supplanting last year’s Pokemon Detective Pikachu, which opened to a $54 million domestic box office over its initial three day weekend.  Including Monday’s totals, it is estimated that Sonic the Hedgehog will earn upwards of $70 million in the U.S. alone.  For a genre known for its massive flops, box office bombs, and low critical reception, Sonic’s achievements truly stand out.  The movie, based on the iconic SEGA video game character, has also earned an “A” from CinemaScore, and the highest audience score for any video game adapted movie at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes (with 8,052 respondents as of right now). This is an incredible achievement for Sonic the Hedgehog, and for its filmmakers. Considering the fan backlash for the original Sonic design which resulted in a three month delay so director Jeff Fowler and co. could go back and retool Sonic’s look, a successful opening weekend was not guaranteed. Hats off to the filmmakers and everyone who worked on this movie. You’ve earned this success.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey | Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Birds of Prey came in second, falling -48% in its second weekend in theaters, bringing in approximately $17 million over the three day weekend.  This brings the movie’s box office total to $59.4 million domestically, and $143 million total world wide  Without a doubt Birds of Prey continues to disappoint not meeting the studio’s expectations, becoming the lowest performing “DCEU” film to date.  Before Birds of Prey, last year’s Shazam! had the lowest opening three day weekend for a “DCEU” film, bringing in $53.5 million domestically.  Even with a B+ CinemaScore, and a favorable “FRESH” 79% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, the Margot Robbie led Birds of Prey continues to struggle to find its footing with audiences worldwide.

Third and fourth place was a virtual tie, with Sony’s Fantasy Island bringing in an estimated $12.3 million, and Universal’s The Photograph earning $12.1 million domestically over their opening three day weekend.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in Bad Boys for Life | Sony Pictures

Coming in fifth place was Sony Pictures Bad Boys for Life.  Now in its fifth weekend, the Will Smith starred film only dropped -6% from its fourth weekend, bringing in $11.3 million. For a sequel movie that’s 17 years removed from its predecessor, Bad Boys for Life is undoubtedly a smash hit for Sony Pictures.  The movie has earned $181 million at the domestic box office, with a total of $368 million world wide, and continues to attract audiences everywhere. 

Here’s a look at how other movies still showing in theaters are performing:

Downhill$4.6 million in its opening weekend.

Gretel & Hansel$13.3 million domestically, $16.5 million worldwide total.

The Gentlemen$31.2 million domestically, $74.6 million worldwide total.

The Turning$15 million domestically, $18 million worldwide total.

Dolittle$70.3 million domestically, $180.9 million worldwide total.

Just Mercy$34.9 million domestically, $42.1 million worldwide total.

*Note: All financial data is provided courtesy The Numbers, my favorite source for box office data.

My Adventures at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Rachel Wagner enjoying her time at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Rachel Wagner enjoying her time at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

As a critic and cinephile, one of the benefits of living in Utah is getting to attend the Sundance Film Festival each year at an affordable rate. 2020 was my fourth year attending the festival but it was also my least favorite experience; however, it was still wonderful to see so many unique films.

Part of the reason my experience wasn’t as good this year is because this was the first year I didn’t purchase a locals’ pass which allows access to all of the Salt Lake City screenings. With just The Grand Pass and a 10-pack I was more limited to what I could see and forced to wait in long lines you wouldn’t need to with a pass (with tickets you also have to try and predict what will be a big hit whereas with a pass you can attend whatever has buzz). It was a little discouraging to not find the gems I found last year but still a good experience.

Sunita Mani and John Reynolds appear in Save Yourselves! by Alex Fischer and Eleanor Wilson. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Matt Clegg

The best film I saw at this year’s festival is a comedy called Save Yourselves! This is a film directed by Alex Hurston Fischer about a couple (Sunita Mani and John Paul Reynolds) who decide to take a break from their cell phones for a weekend and go up to a mountain retreat. The only problem is that same there just happens to be an alien invasion that same weekend! Not only is it a comedic movie about hipsters and technology but it is also a sweet and endearing romance. The actors have great chemistry and I was laughing throughout. 

Dick Johnson is Dead (documentary) premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

My second favorite of the festival is a documentary called Dick Johnson is Dead. This film is directed by Kirsten Johnson and is a very unique look into the process of aging and grief from the perspective of her dad who is still living. I had a very close relationship with most of my grandparents, and watching Kirsten’s dad brought back a lot of memories. There are even fantasy sequences where he dies on screen and he attends his own funeral! I was bawling my eyes out and yet still laughing each time her dad was his charming self. Look out for this on Netflix. 

Winston Duke and Zazie Beetz in Nine Days. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

I saw a lot of artistic pieces at Sundance this year (and most of it, to be honest, were a bit of a slog) but 2 experimental projects worked for me: Nine Days and Tesla. Nine Days is a very interesting film about a premortal world where a man named Will (great performance given by Winston Duke) is tasked with selecting who is worthy to come down to Earth and get a body. For nine days he interviews a variety of people while also dealing with the knowledge that one of his choices just committed suicide, which he does not understand. It was emotional, beautifully filmed and very well acted. I found myself thinking about it several days after I saw it. 

Ethan Hawke in Tesla, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival

Tesla is definitely not for everyone, but it intrigued me. Purportedly, it is about the famed inventor Nikola Tesla played by Ethan Hawke, but it is not a bland biopic. There’s lots of fourth wall breaking and nods to modern technology. It all culminates in the character singing Tears for Fears at a modern karaoke bar. I am very curious to see—outside of the Sundance bubble—what people think of this quirky weird movie. 

So that was my Sundance 2020 experience. It is a lot of fun but it is also a bit of a grueling experience. There are a lot of lines and just seeing 26 movies in 10 days takes a lot out of me. I know there are a lot of festival favorites I didn’t get to see like Minari and Time, so I look forward to catching up with them. And hopefully next year I can get a locals’ pass again so I have an even better experience!

Did you get to attend the festival? If so, what were some of your favorite films? Let us know in the comments section!

At Least They’re Trying…

Do I take what I watched at the Oscars at face value or do I read deeper into what I’m watching?

Best Predictions for Best Picture

This is at the request of a friend of mine, who describes watching the Oscars as “taking a picture of a strange log because that’s what all the other tourists are doing.”

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