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Maciej at the Movies: A March Movie Return, and a Summer of Soul

| February 10th, 2022


Maciej Kasperowicz is a good friend and one of the more trusted movie voices in my life. Today he shares his recap of 2021 especially for us, the DBB throng.


It was a Saturday, a few weeks into March 2021, that marked two weeks since my second Pfizer dose.

I planned my whole day around going to the movies.

Film Forum was playing a double feature of Pedro Almodovar’s new short paired with one of his classics, so I went there for those, got some delicious fish and chips for lunch, and then walked up to the Quad to see Shiva Baby.

I went to the movies 55 times in 2021, and part of that was making up for lost COVID time, but I also think that, because of the uncertainty of 2020, a ton of good shit came out last year. There were movies that I adored, that I told my friends that they absolutely HAD to go see or rent, that I couldn’t squeeze into my top 40 for the year.

For you, though, and for DaBearsBlog, I’ve whittled the list down a 40. Make some popcorn and enjoy.


31-40

Psycho Goreman, HYDRA, The Night House, The Novice, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Test Pattern, Never Gonna Snow Again, Malignant, The Power, Plan B

21-30

Drive My Car, Matrix: Resurrections, The Green Knight, Annette, The Queen of Black Magic, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, Judas and the Black Messiah, Identifying Features, In the Heights, Prisoners of the Ghostland


20. Memoria

This movie’s oddly hard to actually see right now, but I’m optimistic that you’ll get the chance at some point, and when you do, you’ll get one of the best Tilda Swinton performances in years, and the coolest sound design of any movie that came out last year.

19. West Side Story

It can often be counterproductive to remake a movie and spell out its subtext in capital letters (I hated this year’s very ABOUT TRAUMA Halloween Kills), but Tony Kushner’s sharp focus on the racial, economic, and real estate dynamics in one very specific neighborhood of late 50s NYC only enriches the text. Visually, Spielberg is just showing off here, and it’s so fun to watch. I’d love it even more if I didn’t think it didn’t have a black hole of charisma in the middle of it in the form of Ansel Elgort.

[Editor’s Note: If Maciej and I ever start a Siskel and Ebert type program, we could do three episodes on Elgort’s performance in WSS.]

18. Pig

Seems out like it’s gonna be John Wick but about a kidnapped pig and, structurally, it kind of is? But it replaces Gun Fu with real talk about fine dining, tender cookery, and baguette sourcing. It’s the most unexpectedly sweet movie of the year.

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Maciej at the Movies: Recapping One of the Craziest Years in Film History (Part II)

| April 23rd, 2021

Maciej Kasperowicz is a special cinematic correspondent for DaBearsBlog. He’s also a good friend, a dedicated Bears fan/Josie Woods loyalist and the voice I trust most when it comes to all things movies.

This is his follow-up to yesterday’s column. (Just scroll down and read it.) 


Best Picture

Whoo boy.

Minari is pretty handily my favorite of these. Granted, I’m a sucker for immigrant family stuff, but it’s as good an old-fashioned family drama as I can recall. It’s almost like a great novel in all the ways that the five main characters are allowed to disappoint, surprise, forgive, and love each other. The movie never seems long, but when I think about how much real emotion and character development is packed into the fact that it’s under 2 hours long seems astounding. I can’t bring myself to think that something this good might win the year after Parasite, but there’s a world where the Amazon stuff gets enough of the progressive wing of the Academy off of Nomadland, it turns out that many people don’t actually like Chicago 7, and this both exciting and traditional movie has enough 2nd and 3rd place votes to actually win.



I am actually picking the favorite, Nomadland, to win, though, and I’ll be relatively happy when it does. Between Nomadland and Promising Young Woman, this has been a great year for totally fair and well-written criticism of movies I still rather like. If you haven’t been keeping up, Nomadland has a scene towards the beginning filmed at an Amazon facility, and mentions that evil megacorporation a few times off-hand, all without really taking any sort of stand on them (it has been pointed out that the book the movie is based on is less afraid to have people voice criticism).

I think that’s a fair reading, though I read Fern’s off-hand remark about how well Amazon pays more as a sad reflection on the available options than any sort of endorsement. Setting all that aside, Nomadland is absolutely gorgeous-looking. And, especially when it takes time to focus on the characters Fern meets along the way, I think it does a beautiful job portraying the search for some kind of freedom and control in a harsh society while allowing for glimpses of beauty and joy. Chloe Zhao rules. 

If you’re the type of reader that enjoys a thorough evisceration, I’d recommend Ayesha Siddiqi’s shredding of Promising Young Woman, much like Nomadland, a movie I quite like while totally sympathizing with many criticisms of it. Indeed, it’s very much not the satisfying rape-revenge movie that its trailer promises (and that many people do still seem to be treating it as). If anything, it’s a deeply sad movie about repeated attempts to grab onto some kind of power or happiness that offers very little solace. I think the acting by Mulligan and a cavalcade of well-cast nice guys really carries it to something unique and good (though I don’t think the ending works).

While I totally see how Promising Young Woman isn’t for everyone, Judas and the Black Messiah seems an easy recommendation no matter what your tastes are. It both works great as a Departed/Infernal Affairs style undercover cop thriller and as a quick primer about the politics of the Black Panthers and the racism of the FBI. One caveat, specifically applicable to readers of this blog, is that you’ll have to tune out how much Cleveland, where the movie was shot, really doesn’t look like Chicago all that much.

I’m not quite as in love with Sound of Metal, but it’s also a really easy movie to like, with the approachable structure of an easily frustrated main character trying to overcome adversity, largely for love (of both music and a woman). The movie really strikes a chord (thanks Sandy Kenyon, I assume) when it questions what “adversity” really means in this case and again, as expected) in its sound design.

The Father, I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, as I know several people for whom movies about dementia and Alzheimer’s are a no go, but damn, it’s actually really good. Neither a Still Alice-style straightforward weepie nor a straight play adaptation, The Father plays some Lynch-y character tricks, and it really feels like it’s playing them on us and on Anthony Hopkins’ aging Anthony at the same time. The rest of the cast is superb, the production design is excellent, I was shocked at how much I liked it (though, again, I’m not quite sure it sticks the landing).

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Maciej at the Movies: Recapping One of the Craziest Years in Film History (Part I)

| April 22nd, 2021

Maciej Kasperowicz is a special cinematic correspondent for DaBearsBlog. He’s also a good friend, a dedicated Bears fan/Josie Woods loyalist and the voice I trust most when it comes to all things movies. 


Hello again. Welcome to the Marc Colombo of DaBearsBlog posts: super long, shows up like once a year, don’t know why you’d really have any expectations of it by this point.

It was a weird year for movies, have you heard? But much like every regular year, about a million movies came out, and you could watch rather many of them at home. Two weeks after my second vaccine a few weeks ago I went to two different movie theaters, and then went to three more the following week, so I’m incredibly thrilled theaters are back. But I didn’t find it remotely hard to watch movies at home, and it’s one of the things that kept my brain even sorta centered in 2020. I watched 450 or so movies at home, new and old, in the year or so between theater trips.

What the fuck else did I have to do?

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The Oscars decided at some point last year to hope against hope that movie theaters would be open early this year and extended their eligibility period, though the open theaters never really came in significant numbers. That’s why movies like Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father, which came out in 2021 for anybody that’s not a movie critic are represented here. All in all, it’s a pretty regular-seeming Oscar lineup, missing only a few embarrassing below the line nominations for a shitty Star Wars movie (Birds of Prey got robbed in costumes though).

Instead of shoehorning further Bears metaphors, this year I went with a little preview of the big categories to make your viewing of the Oscars (directed by Steven Soderbergh) slightly more informed.

But first…

A Note About Oscar Pools

I’m very far from an experienced gambler, and this is not a gambling advice article so the owner of this here site can probably correct me, but I think an Oscar pool works pretty similarly to a March Madness pool. If you’re in a small pool with like a dozen friends or co-workers (and they’re not Oscar obsessives), it’s probably smartest to just pick pretty close to chalk and trust that they’ll make picks for sillier reasons (like their perception of quality). There will be surprises for sure, but your average friend probably isn’t going to do that much better than the experts. Does that suck the fun out if it? Maybe. But winning is fun.

If you’re looking to win a pool with like 1000 ballots, you’re probably going to have to go bigger. One route could be picking longer shots in all categories that have less consensus, like the shorts, Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing.

Another could be betting on individual films over-performing. No one thought Ford vs. Ferrari was a Best Picture threat last year, but it beat 1917 for Sound Editing and all the heavy hitters for Editing. Maybe everyone likes The Father enough this year that it takes Best Editing and Adapted Screenplay? Maybe everyone’s wrong about the apathy towards Mank and it takes not only Production Design (where it’s favored), but also other below the line awards like Costumes, Makeup, and Cinematography. Don’t get too cute, take your free squares (Boseman for Best Actor, Chloe Zhao for Director, Soul for Animated, Sound of Metal for Sound, Another Round for International), but find a way to differentiate if the field is huge.

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Best Supporting Actor

If you pay a lot of attention to folks that write about the Oscars, you’ll often hear the phrase “category fraud” used to refer to actors in obvious leading roles pushed in the supporting categories where they’re more likely to win. This year we get both Judas (Lakeith Stanfield) and the Black Messiah (Daniel Kaluuya) from the film Judas and the Black Messiah as supporting actors, which is really funny. I think Kaluuya is the better of the two and a really great performance in general. Between this, Get Out, and Widows, Kaluuya’s firmly established himself as one of the best actors in the world, and I’ll be happy to see him get his Oscar here, despite it being a lead role.



The most obvious-seeming potential spoiler for Kaluuya (esp. after the vote-splitting possible after Stanfield’s surprise nomination) is Sacha Baron-Cohen in the Trial of the Chicago 7. The nicest thing I can say is that I don’t think he’s as terrible in that movie as Eddie Redmayne and Jeremy Strong. Or maybe it’s that I find it hard to separate his acting from how much I hate the screenplay. Regardless, this is SNL-level shit at best.

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Three Questions with a Bears Fan, Episode VIII: The Multifaceted Maciej Kasperowicz

| July 13th, 2020

Maciej Kasperowicz is one of the most interesting people I know. He makes his money in the coffee game. He’s a DJ. He was single-handedly keeping several movie theater chains afloat pre-pandemic. He’s a passionate sports fan. He is also awaiting trial on The People Versus Pearl Jam, where he’ll argue the popular grunge outfit sucks in front of a jury of his peers. If you missed it, here’s Maciej’s guest column on the movies of 2019. And be sure to give him a follow on Twitter, if that’s your thing.


DBB: You are in the rare group of people whose movie opinions I respect and cherish. So I ask you this. Who is the Alfred Hitchcock in Bears history? (I am providing no further explanation for that question. It’s on you now.)

Maciej: Look, there’s an easy answer to this. An undeniable, legendary talent through multiple phases of a long career, but a fucking asshole in real life? It’s Ditka. But I wanted a more interesting, if less direct answer, so I started thinking of Mike Brown staring into the backfield from the secondary like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Singletary bearing down on a ball carrier like the airplane in North by Northwest, the 2018 Bears swarming Jared Goff and his receivers like the birds in The Birds, and Hitchcock’s real time experiment in Rope as a metaphor for that half season of Kordell Stewart (that’s admittedly unfair to both Rope, which I like better than Hitchcock did, and Slash, who at least was an incredibly fun video game quarterback, in different ways).

And then Jay Cutler, fresh off his divorce to a woman whose character on The Hills wasn’t that far from a Hitchcock blonde, started making a crime film on his Instagram stories. Granted, with a line like “Thelma there, while she looks nice and sweet, is a savage with loose morals,” Jay seems to be aiming more for early John Huston than Hitchcock. But who knows where his new art may take him.


DBB: First, what do we laymen coffee drinkers not know about the coffee industry that we should? Second, compare the experiences of a perfect cup of coffee to a exhilarating Bears win.

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Guest Columnist Maciej Kasperowicz: “Movies are Mostly Good” – the Story of 2019 Cinema

| February 6th, 2020

Maciej Kasperowicz is one of the Josie Woods/Chicago Bears east pole crew and while we often do not agree on particular movies (which, like, who cares), his opinions are often inspired. (He’s the only person I can text about Macedonian documentaries.) He sees EVERYTHING and I’m thrilled to share his look at the films of 2019 here today.


Movies are mostly good, okay?

Or I should say that if you’re not forced to watch movies for work (or a crippling desire to have opinions on the Oscars) and do some modicum of research before going the theater or pressing play, the large majority of movies you see will probably be enjoyable. So I was thrilled when my friend Jeff asked me write a few hundred words here about the movies of 2019, many of which I loved and am excited to share with you.

Before we get to that, however, I do believe Jeff would like me to talk a bit about JoJo Rabbit, a movie I don’t like. There exists a world in which I went into JoJo Rabbit before hearing it described (by its own advertising) as an “anti-hate satire,” mildly excited to see a Taika Waititi movie. Afterwards, I might have just thought the humor didn’t work for me (hell, the guy next to me in the theater thought it was hilarious). But “an anti-hate satire?” I hate it. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the worst stereotypes of Hollywood: self-congratulatory, ineffectual, meaningless. It’s a rejection of any political reality for the safest stance you could possibly take. Who wouldn’t be anti-hate? Even Joker, which in many ways I dislike even more, has the guts to be anti-austerity.  

I think Jeff might want me to talk about Richard Jewell too but, man. For a movie about the press dragging someone’s name through the dirt to drag a dead journalist’s name through the dirt, that’s some shit, huh? (It’s also, aside from Sam Rockwell’s normcore conspiracy cargo shorts and I guess the big Kathy Bates speech, an extremely boring movie).

Anyways, most movies are good, and two especially good ones this year were Mati Diop’s Atlantics and Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I mention them together because they were somehow shot by the same cinematographer, Claire Mathon, in what surely has to be one of my favorite one-two same-year punches for a cinematographer in movie history. It’s especially impressive considering how different the movies look from each other. Atlantics leaves you with ghostly visions of laser-filled beach-side bars in Senegal, while Portrait is full of  painterly French landscapes. They’re both set against the backgrounds of remote oppression (patriarchy in the case of Portrait; global capitalism, and, yes, also patriarchy, in the case of Atlantics) and they’re both beautifully haunted love stories. Atlantics is on Netflix, and Portrait comes back to theaters this month after a brief qualifying run in December. They’re both extremely worth your time.

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