The Ever-Present Life of the Monogatari Series [2009-2019]

Okay, including the Monogatari series in my 2010s Retrospectives is kinda cheating, since the books started in 2006 and the anime started in 2009. But it was a phenomenal success that shaped the entire anime industry throughout the 2010s. And it’s worth mentioning when we look back at the decade. It was REALLY influential!

The premise of the entire series is simple: Characters’ mental illnesses manifest in supernatural form. And each story plays like a weird teen mystery novel.

Simple, but ripe for a billion entries in this extremely long series.

(Extremely long and extremely strange to follow through: Use this reading/viewing order to make sure you don’t miss anything!)

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Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Alita Battle Angel [2019]

Alita: Battle Angel rules.

It’s a great movie! The story is ridiculously silly and moves along at an exhausting pace as it attempts to cram twelve TV episodes’ worth of content into two hours. The world is gorgeous and textured, while the action sequences are top-notch. And Alita herself is one of my favorite action movie protagonists in a long time! It may be hard to keep up with sometimes, but Alita is absolutely worth your time.

The movie ended up losing money at the box office, but it performed at a best-case scenario for a February release for a non-franchise film. $400 million worldwide isn’t good enough for a film that cost $175 million to produce, but it’s a success story nonetheless.

The movie is re-releasing in U.S. theaters very soon, on October 30th, and I really hope you’ll go watch or rewatch it. It’s a great film for the big screen and every extra ticket sold will help its legacy.

However…

The internet doesn’t let us have nice things anymore. We can’t just have a good movie that tries its best and gets remembered fondly.

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[2019] Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – I Love It, But I’d Change It

Aside from the perfectly-passable-but-weightless Solo, it’s not a tough statement to say that The Rise of Skywalker is the worst (live-action, theatrical) Star Wars film. Maybe Attack of the Clones or The Force Awakens are kinda close, but it’s pretty clear to me that Episode IX is the least artistically accomplished, most flawed of the Skywalker Saga.

But I still love it anyway.

Rewatching the movie in preparation for this article, I was struck by just how overcome with joy I was by so much of this movie. It’s such an exciting and silly experience. Never for a moment do I get bored, even when I’m rolling my eyes at the dumber parts. Honestly, that’s what it was supposed to do, anyway; provide a smashing finale to the greatest epic saga in the history of film. It’s the climax to a nine-part series and thus doesn’t exactly need to be jam packed with new storylines and deeper themes. Even though… that’s kind of what it tried to do…

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[2015] Star Wars Episode VII Actually Exists… Think About That

We live in an era where Star Wars Episode VII really exists, and it’s hard to imagine now that, at the beginning of the decade, that wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s mind that that would ever come to pass.

Okay, maybe the absolute biggest turbo-nerds had kept track of all those offhand comments by Mark Hamill where he said George Lucas once wanted him to play the old man mentor character in a new Star Wars movie decades in the future. But for 99% of the population, Star Wars was a finished franchise, at least until the inevitable remake sometime after Lucas bit the dust.

But it happened. Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. JJ Abrams signed on to direct. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was filmed and released, and not only that but it became the #1 highest-grossing movie in North America by such a wide margin that no film has even come close to breaching it since.

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[2015] Fant4stic Goes to… (pfft) Denny’s

They don’t really do fast food and junk food tie-ins with big blockbuster movies that much anymore. That was very much a product of the 90s and 00s, and after the first Avengers movie in 2012, you hardly saw it outside the inevitable Star Wars brand tie-ins, which are universal constant.

I’ve always wondered why exactly that is, but then I remember how Fant4stic went.

Their tie-in with Denny’s was just…

Geez…

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Spaceballs

As part of the Quinlan Circle’s first DVD Challenge (Sign up for our Patreon to vote for movies to make us watch!!), I watched Spaceballs, an old childhood favorite of mine for a couple years. (Here is Joi Massat’s own write-up on the movie.)

I hadn’t seen it since something like 2005, so it was a very odd experience revisiting it for how well I remembered almost every single scene. It played out exactly how I remembered.

Actually, aside from understanding all the sex jokes and making me realize I was not old enough to watch this movie at all, there was nothing new here for me to discover at all… Which is maybe a bad thing overall.

Like, I love all the slapstick comedy and the stupid nonsense jokes that go on way too far. I love all the fourth wall breaks where they skip ahead in the movie to find out plot details. But I didn’t love this as much as I expected I would.

Maybe my sense of nostalgia and knowing that it would hold up well started to override my expectations and make me think this would have so much more to offer when I watched it as an adult? It’s just a juvenile spoof movie with a bunch of good gags. It’s nothing more than that, and that should be okay with me. But it kind of disappointed me a little bit…

Spaceballs is funny, Mel Brooks is a genius, and I’m overthinking all of this by a ton. But this is a weird case where I wanted the movie to be a lot more than it was, but instead it was exactly the same.

[2014-2015] The Sundance Tintype Photos

One thing I really, really love is using old technology to create new things in a way more streamlined and successful processes can’t fully capture.

In the same way that adding digital film grain to your camcorder movie will never match actually shooting on 35mm, it’s a completely different feeling when you listen to electronic music that uses chiptune samples versus using tracker technology to make chiptunes that can actually run on the hardware they are designed for.

And one of my absolute favorite uses of old technology is ancient, antiquated 19th-century photography equipment in modern day.

Yeah, I’m sure someone with a powerful enough digital camera and enough time spent in photoshop can replicate most of the feeling of a daguerreotype or talbotypes or, as this article is about, tintypes. But with very few exceptions, it won’t be close enough to the real thing.

Case in point, in 2014 and 2015, movie stars at the Sundance Film Festival were captured with tintype cameras. The results are striking and gorgeous, and most of all completely authentic.

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[2018] Big Dumbass Movies

I don’t know what it was about 2018 that made movie studios stampede in and decide that this would be the year, that this would be their grand artistic statement to the masses, but for some reason, they went and did it.

They made an entire year filled to the brim with idiot movies for morons. Gigantic, mega-sized movies consisting of dumb bullshit and gleefully stupid nonsense. Blockbusters whose only purposes were to entertain and to befuddle.

And it was fairly amazing, I will admit.

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[2012] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: The Avengers

Everyone remembers the moment Avengers came out and changed cinema forever. I’m sure it was widely expected that, after the rousing success of the first two Iron Man movies and the decent runs by the first Thor and Captain America, this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment was going to work. A crossover between a bunch of popular movies into one big adventure was always going to be a hit. But just how much of a hit, I’m not sure anyone could have guessed.

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[2019] The Day Box Office Mojo Died

Nobody likes website redesigns. Even when the redesigns are pretty damn good and add some sorely needed features, like most of Youtube’s, there will always be a ton of complaints for a short time afterwards from people who aren’t yet used to the changes.

And it can get annoying when websites (namely those run by Google) are constantly updating, changing around visual design and icon placement and destroying your muscle memory a couple times a year for the sake of theoretically improving its layouts.

But there is one instance where a website redesign was done with malicious intent and ended up destroying an entire internet hobby, and that’s Box Office Mojo.

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