How I’m Doing

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging more lately. This is mostly because we’ve organically settled into a rhythm where I take the first night shift. Stephy tries to sleep at around 10pm after the baby is fed and changed. Then, I usually I wind down and write until the baby wakes at around 1AM to impatiently demandsfood. After feeding and changing, I sleep too. Stephy takes care of things in the awful hours of night until around seven or so. Then, I take over so she can get some rest before I head to work.

Close Call: This child just peed AND pooped moments after I swapped diapers.

This irregular schedule has given me lots of time to compile goofy lists and think about things. It’s also given me more time to work on the novel (coming up on 50k words). I’ve been stuck plot-wise for a few weeks now, but steadily grinding on the passages that I know will happen. It seems to be moving away from detective novel into thriller territory. This is fine with me.

Anyway, one thing that I haven’t really written about is my current stage of life. This makes sense because it’s in flux. Not only am I trying to figure out what is happening, I’m also trying to figure out how I feel about it.

The first thing I want to communicate is that I miss ministry. I miss pouring my time and energy into the service of people, their understanding of God and His role in their lives. I loved every minute of study, preparation, even all the cleaning up. Most of all, I miss the kids. The role I was allowed to play in their lives was one that I never took for granted and the void left from stepping down from that responsibility has been the hardest part of this process.

It’s weird to go from having an important role in so many lives to kinda not. The past few months of “secular” work has been a mixed bag. I manage teachers, prepare curriculum, and help students apply to schools. For the most part, I’m not doing the things I’m best at. The work can be challenging and interesting at times, but there are always the parts of it that reek of the mundane. I think often about Jesus making tables or Paul and his tents. I wonder how they did it when they knew that the fields were ripe with harvest.

On the flipside, I have been able to commit more of my time and energy into my little burgeoning family. You see, for the past few years, I have to admit that there’s been a tension. When I was in ministry and with family (even pre-baby), I had to make compromises. It was hard to go full speed into ministry because I had new financial obligations, a wife to be present for, and a new set of affairs to be concerned about (1 Corinthians 8:33-34). Paul describes the married man as a man whose interests are divided, and that was an apt description for me. At the same time, it was hard to be fully present for my family. I had to give up most evenings and weekends, I missed birthdays and anniversaries.

More importantly, my attention would be divided. I took a look at my inbox today, and for the month of January, I have (as of writing this on January 21st) less than five emails in my primary inbox. As a minister, I’d routinely have hundreds of emails, let alone calls and messages. These were not nuisances, but they could be taxing. While a big part of me desperately wants to get back to doing the work of ministry, I can feel how this time has given me rest and an ability to focus on my family.

It was important to me to be there for Stephy and the wee baby Shelby, and although I’m occasionally too immersed in a TV show, I like to think that I’ve been a good father so far. I didn’t want Stephy to ever feel like there was something competing for my attention and affection and I didn’t want to feel like I had to choose. 

I feel like it sounds like I’m complaining. I don’t mean for it to sound that way. I just wanted to say that it’s been hard. I miss the youth, and I worry that every day I’m spending apart from them in this season is another step towards a day where they no longer see me as someone they can go to for help. I worry all the time that the day has already passed. 

But if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve gained. First, you have to understand that for me, home was an unstable thing growing up. For parts of my life, my church family was the most nurturing family I had. I could count on those people to love and accept me. It’s why I committed my life to building the church. Growing up, I always had this home away from home. But now, I have a home at home.

I don’t know exactly how to express what it feels like to come home from work every day to my family waiting for me. Every morning, I don my necktie, brew my coffee in my travel mug, pack my lunch and mosey on over to the same office in a lifestyle that would make 20 year old Sunroot cry (I still want to cry sometimes). But then, I speed through regions of Irvine and Tustin to get home to these two women that I would do anything for. I come home to my family. After I park the car, I look up and see the lights on through the windows and my heart swells with a weird sensation. For the first time in my life, I feel completely at home.

At the end of the day, yes, of course I want to get back into ministry. A few times a week, I’m looking for jobs at non-profits where I can serve again. My thoughts and feelings are still jumbled. I’m still figuring it all out and I’m trying to know the right thing to do is. But as I write this on my laptop in the dark, my wife and my daughter are sleeping peacefully next to me and I know, without guilt or shame, that I’m doing my best to give my best to them. And that thought helps me sleep peacefully too.

My Favorite Stand Up Specials From the 2010’s

If you’re familiar with my unhealthy media consumption habits, then you know how much I love stand-up comedy. On a normal week with access to at least one of the major streaming services, I might average around 10 hours of stand-up a week. Currently, I’m without Netflix, and with baby, so that number has gone down. Although, with Spotify, late night feedings, and an impetus to research for this piece, I think I’m making up for lost time.

There’s something pure about the form that (for the most part) is just a person standing in front of an audience and making them laugh. One person committed to the entertainment of a crowd with nothing but a means of amplification. Stand-up is evolving past “airline food is bad” and the specials are becoming more immersive, more contemplative, more socially charged. If it means I get more specials like 3 Mics, Homecoming King and Make Happy, I’m all for that change.

I just wanted to take some time and take note of some of my favorite comedians and stand-up specials with a list of my favorites from the past decade. When I was pre-writing for this, I realized that I would have to leave out literally dozens of comedians that I wish I could pay homage to, but my list is already too inflated. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites.

21. Gary Gulman – In This Economy? (2011)Image result for gary gulman in this economy
Gary Gulman is kind of a throwback to what drew everyone to stand up in the 80’s. He’s insightful, witty and his subject matter is innocuous and delightful. Watching one of his specials (with the exception of The Great Depresh [2019]) is like watching a Disney movie; it might not might make you think that deeply, but it is enjoyable throughout. In This Economy is a good example of well constructed, classic stand-up.

20. Katherine Ryan – In Trouble (2017)Image result for katherine ryan in trouble
It should come as high praise that Katherine Ryan is occasionally described as the next Joan Rivers. She is unapologetically herself, or at least the version of herself that she projects on stage. She can be vain, self-deprecating and blunt, but throughout, she is charming, upbeat and fun. She carries herself with a great deal of confidence and that confidence helps her deliver catty and irreverent jokes without seeming cruel or mean-spirited.

19. Kevin Hart – Laugh At My Pain (2011)Image result for kevin hart laugh at my pain
If there were to crown a comedian of the decade for the 2010’s, it would be Kevin Hart. From smaller stand up specials to sold out arenas, no rise was as meteoric as Hart’s. While he never got the critical acclaim of Louie (until Louie’s fall from the public eye), he might be the most publicly recognized stand-up comedian of this era. I’m pretty sure everyone had a group of dudes in their friend circle that constantly snickered “you gonna learn today,” and “alright, alright, alright.” No? Just me? Laugh At My Pain is a great representation of that infectious, fun energy that Kevin Hart brings.

18. Jimmy Carr – Funny Business (2016)Related image
Jimmy Carr’s humor is polished, refined and unmistakably dark. In Funny Businnes, Carr spits out perfectly crafted and executed jokes. His one liners are delivered with precision and you feel comfortable in the hands of a practiced technician. Then, you see his wit and dry humor shine during the crowd-work sections of this special. Carr joins a number of comedians who relish in the shocking and politically incorrect and he does it with a lovely dry, English style. Plus, his laugh is disgusting.

17. Mike Birbiglia – My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (2013)Image result for birbiglia girlfriends boyfriend
Mike Birbiglia is sensitive and thoughtful in a way that makes me think about how weird it is that he shares a profession with guys like Anthony Jeselnik and Daniel Tosh. My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is vulnerable in a way that draws you in, like listening to a good friend share about a tough time. Birbiglia is self-deprecating (as comedians are wont to be), but there is an inner strength that helps you to laugh with him and root for him at the same time. He won’t make you laugh so hard your guts hurt, but you’ll finish the special feeling somehow lighter and more optimistic.

16. John Mulaney – The Comeback Kid (2015)Related image
In the vacuum created by Louis CK’s fall from grace, John Mulaney has risen as the critical darling and the golden boy of stand up comedy. This is rightfully so. In this decade, he’s been nominated for dozens of Emmy’s and WGA Awards for SNL and Documentary Now!, including wins for SNL and one for his 2018 special, Kid Gorgeous at Radio City. He also co-created the broadway show Oh, Hello and the Netflix show Big Mouth with Nick Kroll. The Comeback Kid is a good encapsulation of what we love about John Mulaney, his self-deprecating humor, delivered with energy and charm.

15. Aziz Ansari – Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening (2010)Image result for ansari intimate moments
Before Aziz Ansari was winning Emmys and Golden Globes for Master of None, he was living it up as Tom Haverford and making incredible stand-up comedy. Like many other comedians on this list, he was following the mold of Louis CK by taking a year to hone a full hour’s worth of material, recording it, and then burning it to start all over again. In short succession, Aziz came out with several excellent hour-long specials (Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening 2010, Dangerously Delicious 2011, Buried Alive 2013, Live at Madison Square Garden 2015). I chose this one as my favorite of them because it begins a great tradition of Aziz R&B bits. 

14. Tom Segura – Mostly Stories (2016)Image result for segura mostly stories
Tom Segura is a classic comedian in that his jokes will often revolve around certain comedy tropes; sex, poop, idiotic people. That being said, I really enjoy his stuff. Maybe it appeals to my more base instincts, but I have to admit I like when a comedian is doing what he can to shock and gross out his audience. There are so many fat, gross comedians that I love, and Tom Segura right up there with the best of them.

13. Hannibal Buress – Live From Chicago (2014)Image result for hannibal buress live chicago
The Kobe Bryant bit. I love most of Buress’ stuff, but the Kobe Bryant bit made me pick this special out from the pack. Buress has some of my favorite jokes “related to personal stories, current events, the streets and even food” (inside joke), but it’s his delivery and cadence that really make his jokes special. He has a way of starting a joke slow, and compounding it as he speeds up that is a testament to how hard he works on each bit. His meta jokes about stand up comedy provide an extra layer of enjoyment for the die-hards. 

12. Daniel Tosh – Happy Thoughts (2011)Image result for tosh happy thoughts
This list should make it clear that I love the unapologetic elitism that Daniel Tosh uses in his stand-up. He is critical of the pretenses that people use in the name of political correctness, and goes out of his way to assault them. What makes him special is that he does so in a way that self-aware and dare I say, thoughtful. In Happy Thoughts, Tosh’s persona helps to hold an unflattering mirror up to some of the things that make America, ‘Murica. 

11. Lil Rel’  – Kevin Hart Presents: Lil Rel’ – RELevent (2015)Image result for lil rel relevent
Lil Rel’s style is a pure kind of comedy that is just joyful. Watching him is like watching the funniest guy you know, but capture all of that fun into a package with hilarious delivery and put it on a professional stage. Laughs are had at nobody’s expense, so everyone is in on the joke. There is nothing overtly political or deep, but I want to put his stuff on my list because it legitimately makes me laugh out loud. RELevent is like birthday cake, festive and fun all throughout.

10. Hannah Gadsby – Nanette (2018)Image result for gadsby nanette
We’re cracking the top 10 on my list and this is where a lot of the entries start to get heavy— none of them heavier than Nanette by Hannah Gadsby. Gadsby recounts her own journey of discovery, abuse and triumph. She does this while examining art, including comedy, as an imperfect narrators, insufficient for conveying the depth and truth of a person’s experience. In a way, Nanette is a subversion of comedy, and the laughs are turned into tension, tension that she doesn’t let go of. It’s a beautiful and gripping special, worthy of watching, for laughter and severity.

9. Michael Che – Michael Che Matters (2016)Image result for michael che matters
I haven’t liked SNL for a long time, but I love Michael Che (I’m too jealous of Colin Jost to appreciate him even a little), and I really enjoy Michael Che Matters. Che is able to speak on social issues without being too preachy or myopic. In a way, he reminds me of Chris Rock in his heyday (you’ll notice I didn’t put Tambourine on this list) in the way he can. His insights are witty, sharp and memorable. The sign of a good satirist is the ability to turn a phrase in a way that makes you rethink an issue. Think of Chris Rock’s “bullet control” and “black people vs. n-’s”. Michael Che gives us terrifying white women and “All Buildings Matter”.

8. Anthony Jeselnik – Thoughts and Prayers (2015)Related image
Anthony Jeselnik has made a living on provoking a response through the most inappropriate jokes possible. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “________ is nothing to joke about,” Jeselnik has taken that topic, written it on an index card, and made it his mission to make a joke out of it. This audaciousness is not a virtue in and of itself, but his execution and delivery is just so wonderful. This special is a good blend of his toolkit, stories, short set-up/punchline jokes and personal thoughts. Whereas Fire in the Maternity Ward (2019) can be predictable and repetitive, Thoughts and Prayers is fresh and exciting from start to finish.

7. Bill Burr – Let It Go (2010)Image result for burr let it go
Bill Burr is another guy on this list where I could’ve put any of his specials and would’ve had multiple entries if it weren’t for wanting to be nice. Burr is what they call a comedian’s comedian, who, in the same vein as Aziz and Louie, is working on new material and touring constantly, refining his craft and steadily making quality material. He is profane and abrasive, but thoughtful so his rants come off like tough love, not malicious berating. I chose let it go because “what are you, a fag?” is an insightful bit that captures when Burr is at his best; reflective and hilarious.  

6. Marc Maron – Thinky Pain (2013)Related image
Marc Maron’s comedy resonates with the basest parts of myself: addiction, neuroticism, and depression. For those who enjoy the now legendary WTF? podcast, his specials feel like a polished version of our group therapy sessions. His stories don’t always end in triumph, but you feel like you’ve bonded by the end and accepted hard things together. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comedian so raw, honest and unfiltered. 

5. Dave Chappelle – The Bird Revelation (2018)… but really, all of themImage result for chappelle bird revelation
The feeling I get when watching Dave Chappelle’s new sets is what it must have been like for Drake and Beyonce fans when they were hit by great surprise albums. Dave Chappelle came back from semi-retirement to fanfare and a comedy god status. When you watch the new specials, you can see why. There are sections where he is just riffing, making people laugh while just musing on whatever’s on his mind. Then there are times where he is presenting perfectly crafted bits, built up over the course of the set and drawn to an epic conclusion. Chappelle breaks a traditional paradigm for what comedy touring and specials should be with an absolutely virtuosic command of the craft. In one special, he jokes about how it’s too easy, and how he could just pull punchlines out of a fishbowl and destroy crowds. Then he does it when you know it’s coming. I picked Bird Revelation, because like all of my favorite stand-ups, it challenged me in my perspectives about a current issue (#metoo) and gave me the vocabulary to voice some ideas around it.

4. Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King (2017)Related image
Homecoming King is about an Asian-American immigrant who grew up in an urban environment in the 90’s. Hasan Minhaj was custom-made to hit my cultural touchstones: hip-hop, sports and withholding parents. What makes Homecoming King so special is Minhaj’s thoughtful approach to discussing what it means to be a son of immigrants in America. He is open and reflective and honest in a way that makes you feel what he feels. You experience his struggles with him and you want to cheer in your seat with his triumphs. All in all, Homecoming King does what all my favorite stand up specials do. It makes you think, feel and laugh.

3. Neal Brennan – 3 Mics (2017)Related image
Neal Brennan will always joke about riding on the coat-tails of Dave Chappelle and the success of Chappelle’s Show, but in this special, you see how he has grown as a stand-up in his own right. He has a distinctive vision and style that makes 3 Mics a powerfully moving and hilarious time. Brennan takes an unorthodox approach of switching between three types of jokes, or one could argue, three different personas. The effect of the format is that it brings extra attention to each time he changes mics. It makes you want more of one or less of another, and all of these machinations cause you to think more deeply through the content. 

2.Bo Burnham – Make Happy (2016)
Image result for bo burnham make happy
Make Happy is a special that is filled with meta-commentary on the stand-up form and ends in an existentially reflective rant in the style of Kanye West. This is a man after my own heart. Bo Burham examines what it means to be happy and what it means to be in the public eye. He does it by disorienting and delighting his audience with catchy songs, non-sequiturs and deeply thoughtful ruminations. 

1. Louis CK – Hilarious (2010), Live at the Beacon Theater (2011), Oh My God (2013), Live at the Comedy Store (2015), 2017 (2017)
Image result for louis ck 2017
It’s hard to talk about Louis CK without mentioning his recent fall from grace. When I’m looking at different lists that people have compiled of their favorite stand-up comics and specials from the last decade, his name is very noticeably absent. I can understand why people are wary of including him or perhaps their own personal convictions make it impossible to continue honoring him. There’s also the reality that many of the jokes he made land differently in light of what we’ve learned about him. But at the end of the day (or decade), Louis CK was my favorite comedian of the 2010s.

Each of his specials taught me different ways to look at complex issues. His TV show made me a better person and, I think, a better father. The more recent specials challenged me to be a more thoughtful pastor and educator. I mean, admittedly, there are swaths of filthy content littered throughout all of these specials (not a bad thing). There are tons of inane (yet hilarious) stories and anecdotes. But when Louis CK talks about heavy issues like language, race and even abortion (what a way to open a special [2017]), he does so with such nuance and thoughtfulness. Louie has a way of reframing arguments that we take for granted and turning them into a mirror at something ugly inside of us. Those mirrors are crucial to evaluate what makes us think the way we do. I believe we’re a better populace for having watched specials, better equipped to listen and see from other perspectives, less expedient to judge and condemn without looking first at ourselves. 

On top of all that, Louis CK has done the most to make the other comedians on this list better. In this decade, he became the elder statesman in stand-up and set the tone for everyone else for what it means to be a professional. His commitment to creating new, relevant material through constantly working the clubs and touring was an example that has improved the quality AND quantity of good stand-up that we get on a regular basis. For those reasons, and the simple reason that he’s funny, he tops my list here.

My Favorite Movie Of Each Year in the Past Decade… almost

This list wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I was supposed to make a simple list of my favorite movies from 2010-2019. It was gonna be one of those peppy top 10 lists that gets me a click or two. These lists ought to be equal parts pretentious and provocative. But somehow, the list grew and grew. There are too many movies that deserve mention and praise– not because of their objective greatness, but because of what they’ve meant to me.

There are great, important movies that are left off this list. They are omitted for various reasons, not the least of which would be that I haven’t seen them (sorry 2019). Other reasons may simply be that the movie I ended up choosing just had too much of an effect on my.

For those who know me, you know that I love movies, TV, novels, comics, pretty much anything with a narrative. I love stories because life’s most huge important truths are captured in an instant. The stories of all humanity can be told in the story of one human. I enjoy movies as entertainment, yes, but also as guides, road-maps and parables. As I reflect on this very formative decade in my life, I can’t help but see how these wonderful films shape my own narrative, my own arcs, my own character.

As I compiled the list, it began to swell. It also became hard to order them in any sensible way besides chronological, so the format I’ve ended up with is a list of my favorite movies of each year, with honorable mentions. This is by no means a definitive list of what is best (research exposed to me how many noteworthy movies I’ve failed to watch). I hope the reader can enjoy these selections through my own eyes and perhaps if you’ve been itching to take the plunge with one of these beauties, you’ll take my word for it and jump.

2010 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay by: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin

It’s rare to find a piece of art that you feel speaks so specifically and directly into your life and experience. While I haven’t wielded a flaming sword against enemy exes, this movie touches on the deeply nostalgic video game culture I grew up in. It brings me back to lazy afternoons on the couch with Sun-Jet and a Nintendo Power Walkthrough on my lap collecting Skulltulas. Scott Pilgrim also perfectly captures a period of my life where I was wondering what I should do with it. Scott’s journey was my journey. To this day, I will often make to-do lists with the heading “SR Gets It Together.”  Edgar Wright is a master at visual comedy and the soundtrack is hypnotic and perfect, from 8-bit Easter Eggs to the sleepy dream ballads.

Honorable Mentions

Image result for inception
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

The Fighter
Image result for the fighter
Director: David O’Russell
Screenplay by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

True Grit
Image result for true grit
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Charles Portis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailie Steinfield

2011 – Attack the Block
Image result for attack the block

Director: Joe Cornish
Screenplay by: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail

John Boyega a.k.a Finn a.k.a. FN-2187 wields a samurai sword and leads a gang of South London hood rats against a horde of glowing alien invaders.  There’s so much more to say, but it shouldn’t be necessary to say it. The movie gives representation to a culture that is so often under-represented in genre flicks and answers a question that we never knew we needed the answer for: “What would happen if aliens tried to invade the ghetto?”

Honorable Mentions

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Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay by: John Logan
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant

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Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill

Image result for drive 2011
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay by: Hossein Amini, James Sallis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

2012 – Skyfall
Image result for skyfall train

Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris

There’s a moment when James Bond adjusts his cuffs after jumping into a moving train through a hole he carved with a crane that was also on the aforementioned train. Scenes like that will always make me feel like a little kid watching someone who is quintessentially cool. Skyfall takes the typical Bond tropes and adds in complex themes about duty and the fall of empire (for a deeper dive, check out the Rewatchables). In Skyfall, you follow an older broken Bond who can’t rest because the mission isn’t over. He does many un-cool things (gets shot, dies, collapses during a physical, etc.) but he is so damn cool. M quoting Tennyson over a montage of Bond running still gives me goosebumps.

Honorable Mentions

Safety Not Guaranteed
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Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by: Derek Connolly
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson

Django Unchained
Image result for django unchained shirtless
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio

Seven Psychopaths
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Director: Martin McDonagh
Screenplay by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken

2013- Kings of Summer
Image result for kings of summer 2013

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay by: Chris Galleta
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias

The Kings of Summer is easily one of my favorite movies, period. It captures something deep inside of me, a boyish yearning for adventure and independence. It reminds me of hiking through the backwoods of Kissena Park, or driving for days around the country, sleeping  outside or in the trunk of the Rav4. There’s something important that this movie teaches about what it means to be a man. Or at the very least, it emphasizes the importance of embarking on a quest to become one.

Honorable Mentions

Warm Bodies
Image result for warm bodies
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay by: Jonathan Levine, Isaac Marion
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Inside Llewyn Davis
Image result for inside llewyn davis
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Image result for walter mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Screenplay by: Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

2014- Whiplash

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Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by: Damian Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

There’s something about a story of obsession and greatness that will always speak to me. Whiplash is often described as a sports movie, something akin to a boxing movie because of the relentless dedication of the hero to become great. It is also the first in a string of movies by Damian Chazzelle about needing to abandon the women in your life to pursue your dreams. This movie is laser focused and lean without an ounce of fat and the result is a gripping story about someone who refuses to be a no one, no matter the cost. The soundtrackis no slouch either.

Honorable Mentions

Image result for interstellar last scene
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay by: Jonathan Levine, Isaac Marion
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Hector and the Search for Happiness
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Director: Peter Chelsom
Screenplay by: Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom, Tinker Lindsay, Francois Lelord
Starring: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Tracy Ann Oberman

John Wick
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Director: Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen

2015- Mr. Right

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Director: Paco Cabezas
Screenplay by: Max Landis
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Tim Roth

There is such a thing as a perfect romantic comedy action movie. This is it. It’s perfectly cast, acted and filmed.  Sam Rockwell is your sweet everyman with a freakish gift. Anna Kendrick is our dream girl who not only accepts Sam Rockwell’s murderous occupation, but participates too. It’s a tragedy that more people haven’t seen this great movie. It’s a joy to watch from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions

我的少女时代 (Our Times)
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Director: Yu Shan Chen
Screenplay by: Yung-Ting Tseng
Starring: Vivian Sung, Talu Wang, Dino Lee

Mad Max: Fury Road
Image result for fury road
Director: George Miller
Screenplay by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

The Martian
Image result for the martian

Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay by: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

2016- The Nice Guys

Image result for the nice guys
Director: Shane Black
Screenplay by: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

The Nice Guys is like an unintentional sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, another subversive sleuthing movie that I love. It manages to be warm and sweet in the cold, bitter world of LA in the 70s. Every scene in this movie is hilarious. It’ll make you hungry for more detective stories and more Shane Black. It ought to.

Honorable Mentions

La La Land
Image result for la la land emma
Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

Kubo and the Two Strings
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Director: Travis Knight
Screenplay by: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey

2017- Molly’s Game

Image result for mollys game its my name
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin, Molly Bloom
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner

Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino are by far my favorite screenwriters of all time. If I can just listen to a movie with my headphones in without watching and still be riveted, then I know that the screenplay is packing a punch. That said, Molly’s game incorporates some of my favorite things, poker, the criminal underworld and Sorkin dialogue. You watch the rise and fall and rise of an American entrepreneur/criminal.

Honorable Mentions

Get Out
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Director: Jordan Peele
Screenplay by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford

The Big Sick
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Director: Michael Showalter
Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

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Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

2018- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramset
Screenplay by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld

It is distinctly satisfying to watch a comic book movie executed perfectly. Into the Spider-Verse simultaneously dipped into an expansive multiverse while telling the story of a single boy’s journey to becoming a hero. The visuals are endlessly entertaining and full of easter eggs and details for comic book lovers. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is about what Spider-Man was always supposed to be about, a boy, taking on the weight of responsibility for a whole city because, in short, he has to.

Honorable Mentions

Isle of Dogs
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Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, George Clooney

Black Panther
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Director: Michael Showalter
Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

Den of Thieves
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Director: Christian Gudegast
Screenplay by: Christian Gudegast
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr.

2019- ???

I don’t think I could write about 2019 in good conscience. I haven’t seen most of the movies, including the ones that I know I will love, including Parasite, 1917, Marriage Story, The Farewell, Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, Booksmart, Ad Astra, Joker to name a few. So many of those are right up in my wheelhouse so it’d be impossible to make this list without them.

At the end of this list, I feel like I’ve given a good representation of the films I like, and I hope you come to like them too. I’m looking forward to a roaring 20’s where new streaming platforms and distribution formats will give rise to all kinds of new storytelling. I can’t wait to see movies get more epic and cinematic to compete with streaming services and multi-episode miniseries’. Stay tuned or subscribe to this blog, if you care about the stuff I’m into as I’ll be posting up my favorite TV shows, music and stand-up specials of the last decade up on my blog in the coming weeks.