Friday, December 29, 2023

Chrystian's Top 10 Movies of 2023

2023 was the year that I got to fall back in love with movies. I didn't see the volume of movies that I have in years past; just over 30 films as we near the end of the year, where in past years I have seen in the area of 80-100. But the thing about 2023 is that I remember all of those 30+ movies, because 2023 is the years the year I really, truly got sober from alcohol and drugs. My head is more clear now than it has been in years, and I have the capacity again to really consider the artistry of my favorite medium. Let's get into it.

10. Asteroid City

I love Wes Anderson. His last two outings, The French Dispatch and Isle of Dogs, did not land with me, so my expectations for Asteroid City were not high. However my reservations were proven completely unfounded, because Asteroid City is the best Anderson film since The Grand Budapest Hotel. It has the same style you've come to expect from the filmmaker, but dives into topics like grief, the unknowable nature of the universe, and the existential dread of wondering what "the point" of life is. The charm and humor present in his other works is still here if you're not interested in anything below the surface, but this one has a lot to dig into if you're willing.

9. May December

What does it mean to get inside the mind of a monster? It perhaps takes one to know one. May December is not a particularly showy movie, it is slow and methodical as all of Todd Haynes films are. What it is an absolute showcase for it's 3 leads, most notably in my opinion Charles Melton. I certainly did not think I would walk away from a film starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore thinking the guy from Riverdale stole the show, but that's certainly how things turned out. The film, based loosely on the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, is not an easy sit, but the twisted web that it weaves is more than worth your time

8. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Kelly Fremon Craig is so good at what she does. Her previous film, The Edge of Seventeen, came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite films of 2016. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret serves as a sort of spiritual successor to that film; Edge of Seventeen dealing with being a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, this film deals with what it means to be a girl on the cusp of being a young woman. It's all confusion, frustration, and rapid change, and Kelly Fremon Craig captures that with a level of authenticity and reverence that you rarely see on screen these days. Abby Ryder Fortson delivers a fearless performance completely devoid of ego as the titular Margaret. Rachel McAdams is Oscar worthy as Margaret's mother, and I'm already mad for her inevitable snub. 

7. Godzilla Minus One

One of my favorite things every year are the movies that I never see coming. The ones that sneak up on me and blow me away. The biggest surprise of 2023 for me is Godzilla Minus One. I would have told you that I'd never be caught dead crying at a Godzilla movie of all things. But it happened, both times I saw this film. It captures the horror of Godzilla, and intertwines it perfectly with human characters we actually care about. It grapples with death, honor, and grief with such an even hand. And at a budget of only $15 million, the visual effects outshine superhero films that cost hundreds of millions. It's a really special piece of art, and it does something I wish we got more often in the modern film landscape; a happy ending.

6. Bottoms

Comedy is a tough one for me. The four-quadrant comedy schlock that manages to slink its way into theaters more and more rarely draws my ire to no end. It takes a very particular brand of absurdist comedy to resonate with me and draw from me more than an amused chuckle. Bottoms is exactly that. It exists in a world all it's own; it elevates and exacerbates reality into something nearly unrecognizable from our own, and feels no obligation to explain its own ridiculousness. It throws you into the deep end and expects you to swim. Emma Seligman continues to prove herself as the young filmmaker to keep your eye on, and Rachel Sennott yet again proves the same in the acting space. If you can keep up, you're in for the funniest film of the year.

5. Barbie

Few movies have lived rent-free in my mind for so long as Greta Gerwig's Barbie. It gave my favorite actor, Ryan Gosling, arguably the role he was born to play. The sets and production design were immaculate. The music was fun and memorable. The message was clear and powerful. I bleached my hair blonde and learned to rollerblade. I saw it 5 times in the theater. Barbie was a motion picture phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time. It captured the collective consciousness of the world, and for a while the world was pink. Tentpole films from major studios are rarely, if ever, this good. Barbie is an outlier, a reminder of what cinema is and can be.

4. Poor Things

It would seem like a disservice to say that Yorgos Lanthimos's work so far has been contained, but after seeing Poor Things one can truly tell that he has been let off the leash and given free reign to fully realize his very specific brand of gonzo filmmaking. Poor Things is like nothing you've ever seen. It's like Barbie by way of David Lynch. Emma Stone delivers a career best performance, and Mark Ruffalo does the same in a role unlike any we've ever seen him do. Underneath it's absurdity it's a film about finding yourself, and navigating your way through a world just as brutal as our own. It's about having full agency over your body and what you do with it. It's about how the mind of a child might be better equipped to make sense of chaos, free of the jaded patina of adult living. There's a lot to dive into, and I can barely scratch the surface.

3. Beau is Afraid

It is near impossible to fully describe the scope and specificity of one's anxiety and the way the it reaches out into the life and tints the world around you. The totally mundane can become the stuff of nightmares in only an instant with only an errant thought. Beau is Afraid encapsulates anxiety perfectly and puts it on screen raw. It is long, unrelenting and all-consuming. You can get lost in it and leave utterly confused. Your brain will try to make sense of it, and it will fail. And that is exactly the point. It is beautiful in its own way, and totally unique.

2. Past Lives

It's easy to get caught up in the "should haves" and "could haves." To look at one's past and build a fantasy in your mind about the ways things could have been different; we all do it. But the truth is our past is set in stone. We can't remake it and we can't go back. Celine Song's Past Lives is a portrait of exactly that. It opens the window into the past and allows us to look through, cherish what we had, and accept our present for what it is. It isn't better or worse, it simply is. Past Lives is melancholy, heartbreaking, and features three of the best performances I saw all year. It has only grown in my estimation the further I get from it, and it hasn't stopped lingering in my mind since.

1. All of Us Strangers

I live for a tragic romance. Most of my favorite films of all time are tragic romances, in one form or the other. And one starring Adam Scott and Paul Mescal? I'm there. All of Us Strangers is about how it's never too late for reconciliation. It's about how the dead never really leave us, and how even after someone is gone, it's never too late for new levels of understanding. No one is really gone as long as we carry them in our hearts. It's beautiful and heart wrenching, and contains two of the best performances of the year. It's a quietly haunting ghost story that will continue to linger in my mind for some time.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

My 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2024

The SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strikes of 2023 have left the 2024 release calendar looking a little sparse. But there is more than enough exciting art coming to theaters in the coming year to get excited about, especially outside of major releases. Let's take a look.

10. The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch

Stuntman turned director David Leitch returns this summer with The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling. It follows a stuntman who gets wrapped up in a conspiracy revolving around a missing movie star, while simultaneously trying to win back the love of his life. Outside of Atomic Blonde, I am admittedly not the biggest fan of Leitch's directorial efforts thus far. However, if the man knows nothing else, he knows how to choreograph exciting action, and this time the movie is starring my favorite actor. So count me in.

9. Nightbitch, directed by Marielle Heller

I'm not a big Marielle Heller guy. Can You Ever Forgive Me and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood both failed to click with me. However, I am a big Amy Adams guy, and I'm a sucker for an absolutely absurd premise. Nightbitch is about a mother disenchanted with the day-to-day of raising a toddler that is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that she is slowly turning into a dog. I can dig it.

8. Polaris, directed by Lynne Ramsay

Lynne Ramsay's previous film, You Were Never Really Here, was one of my favorite films of 2017. She is again teaming up with Joaquin Phoenix for Polaris, also starring Rooney Mara. Little is known about the film, except that it follows a photographer who meets the Devil in Alaska. It sounds dark and cold and right up my alley.

7. Love Lies Bleeding, directed by Rose Glass

Kristen Stewart is one of my favorite living actors. And this is not the last time she will be appearing on this list. But all of her post-Twilight work has been interesting, challenging, and somewhat bizarre. It's wonderful. After Rose Glass' previous film Saint Maud, Stewart apparently tracked down the director and begged to be involved in whatever she did next. And thus Love Lies Bleeding was born. It's a queer love story about a gym manager named Lou that falls for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder. Their romance takes a turn as they find themselves wrapped up in Lou's criminal family.

6. I Saw the TV Glow, directed by Jane Schoenbrun

At first viewing, I hated Jane Schoenbrun's first feature film We're All Going to the World's Fair. Upon giving it a second chance, I found it to be a deeply moving portrait of what it means to be lonely in the social media age. I am so on board for whatever she does next. I Saw the TV Glow follows Owen, whose grasp on reality starts to crack when a classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show.

5. Mickey 17, directed by Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho has a long and storied career of dazzling films. But Mickey 17, starring one of my favorites Robert Pattinson, is his follow-up to his Best Picture winning film Parasite. I am beyond excited to what Bong has in store for us next. Mickey 17 is about an "expendable," a disposable employee on an ice planet. Bong directing a treatise on being a disposable corporate machine? Yes, please.

4. Civil War, directed by Alex Garland

Alex Garland is perhaps my favorite writer/director working today. Ex Machina, Annihilation, and Men are among my favorite films of their respective years. The same can be said of movies he has only written, like Dredd and Never Let Me Go. Garland's work always grapples with fear and existential dread that I find very relatable. In Civil War, he will be tackling the idea of a civil war in the near future of the United States, and I can't wait for Garland to bring his very particular flavor to that subject matter.

3. Love Me, directed by Sam Zuchero & Andrew Zuchero

I am a huge fan of a bizarre love story. Look at my Top 10 movies of 2020, and you'll find Zoe Wittock's Jumbo, a romance about a woman that falls in love with a amusement park ride. Love Me is a film about a satellite and a buoy who fall in love long after humanity's extinction. Pump that shit directly into my veins. Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun are two of the most exciting young talent out there right now. So much about this excites me.

2. Nosferatu, directed by Robert Eggers

Robert Eggers directing career is still in its infancy, but the man has already proven himself to be a master in art. His feature film debut The Witch is a total masterpiece of horror. His subsequent works, The Lighthouse and The Northman have also proven that Eggers is versatile in the space, and can handle changes in genre and tone deftly. His next film is a retelling of the 1922 F.W. Murnau film Nosferatu. I'm excited to see him return to the horror genre, and equally excited to see Bill Skarsgard's take on Count Orlok.

1. Furiosa, directed by George Miller

Mad Max: Fury Road is the best film of the last decade. It is a masterwork on every conceivable level. I have been waiting 9 long years to see George Miller to return to that world, and next year we will finally have that chance with Furiosa. The incomparable Anya Taylor-Joy plays the titular character, a younger version of the character played by Charlize Theron in Fury Road. Taylor-Joy has been amazing for a long while now, but has yet to really find an iconic role to call her own. I'm so excited to see her really put her experience to task, and play a character that is deserving of her skill. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Past Lives & In-yun 인연


In Celine Song's feature directorial debut Past Lives, one of the film's lead characters, Nora (Greta Lee) explains the concept of in-yun to Arthur (John Magaro) the man that will eventually become her husband. In-yun is one of those concepts that only exists in languages more nuanced than English. 

In the director's own words, "In-yun is basically about how you can’t control who walks into your life...and who stays in your life. That to me is at the heart of the film. It’s about the ineffable thing...about every relationship, even the person who brushes up against you, even you and me who’s sitting here.”

In-yun assigns a sort of elastic nature to time, and the relationships in our lives. It asserts that even the smallest interaction, like bumping up against someone on the street, happens because at some point in our past lives, our two souls were connected in some way, and that connection, in-yun, has drawn you back toward each other. Perhaps in another life I was a branch, and you were a bird that landed on that branch. Perhaps we were lovers. Maybe you were an ocean and I was a fish.

It could be very easy to consider in-yun and make it into something worth despairing. You could easily perceive is as "what could have been." You could consider the concept and use it as ammunition for resentment, and be hurt that the person you want today was maybe more connected to you in a past life. That certainly wouldn't help any of the longing that I feel in my heart today. So I have decided see the hope in the idea.

The film follows childhood friends Nora and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) whose childhood romance is cut short when Nora's family immigrates to North America from Korea. Twelve years pass, and the two reconnect through social media and have a whirlwind, long-distance flirtation. This is cut short, too, when Nora decides, because of the distance and the branching paths of their lives, that the two would be better off not speaking. Another twelve years pass. Nora is now married to a man in New York City, and Hae Sung finally decides to come visit her. Everything about Nora has changed, but Hae Sung is still in love with the girl he fell in love with when they were children.

Hae Sung's trip is selfish. He has just broken up with his girlfriend back home. He still remembers the love in his heart for Nora that he has held on to for the past 24 years. He knows she is married. He visits anyway.

What follows is not a typical love triangle, or "will they/won't they" type of story. And it would be the easy thing, narratively, to have Nora's American husband Arthur serve as the villain keeping the two star-crossed lovers apart. Past Lives paints the scene with a much more thoughtful and emotionally mature brush. There remains an undeniable connection between Hae Sung and Nora, both personally and culturally that Nora's relationship with Arthur simply can not replicate. But there is an equal but different type of bond that connects Nora and Arthur. The interplay between the three main characters is uncomfortable and true to life, but there is never a feeling of any real threat to Nora and Arthur's marriage. Not once was I as a viewer worried that there would be an issue of infidelity. Both of these men love Nora, and both men yearn to connect with her in the way the the other is able to. (For example, Arthur has been trying to learn Korean.) But instead of this making these men into enemies or competitors they simply...handle uncomfortable emotions like adults. It sounds simple, but it's something not seen often enough put to the screen. 

In a scene where Nora steps away from the bar, Arthur and Hae Sung are left alone together. Hae Sung tells Arthur that there is in-yun between them, too. These men are here, meeting like this because of a spiritual connection. Because they meant something to each other in a past life.


In the ending moments of the film, Nora stands by Hae Sung's side as he waits for his Uber back to the airport. The moment is quiet, and the silence & space between the two characters is thick with unspoken sentimentality. Right before he gets in the car, Hae Sung brings up in-yun one more time. I don't have the exact quote, and while I love this movie deeply I'm not sure I have the emotional constitution to watch it again any time soon. But Hae Sung says that some day the life that he and Nora are living right now will also be a past life. Their souls will move on and become something new. He wonders if, in their next lives, they might be something different to each other. And then he leaves.

It is heartbreaking in a way, but I choose to find hope in that. The things we want are not always meant to be ours. But in a next life, if you believe in something like that, there exists infinite opportunity. Just because things are one way now, does not mean that they will always be. Whether that means later on in this life, or in whatever comes next. What we can do is nurture what we do have, what is in front of us, and what is real in this moment. Despairing about what was or what could have been only serves to hurt us. It's easier said than done, and I certainly have a lot of work to do to put that into practice in my own life.

I love the idea of in-yun. I have thought about it every day since I saw this film. It helps me remember that there is a point and a purpose to everything that happens in our lives. We come into contact with the people in our lives for a purpose. Between me and the patients I work with through my occupation, there is in-yun. The person you brush up against in the crowd at a show; in-yun. The three people I called on the phone in tears after I saw this movie, there is in-yun there for sure.

In-yun helps me feel connected. It makes me feel less alone. It gives me a lot of hope. If you think it might enrich your journey, I hope you carry the idea with you, too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Fast X, Found Family, and Saying Goodbye to a Car

Yesterday I got a new car. Not a new, new car. An old car that is new to me. The car I had been driving for the last 3 years was a lease, so it was never truly, legally mine. But as I emptied my belongings out of that car and into the new one, I was not prepared for the flurry of emotions that I was suddenly overtaken with.

It's easy to look at a car, and see a speeding metal deathtrap. It's actually kind of insane that we all scoot around going 70 miles per hour just a few arms lengths away from each other. But what I'm thinking about today is how a car is a powerful tool of connection. I'm thinking about all the people that I've built connections with in the places that car brought me. Today I'm thinking about all the things that happened in my old car, all the things that it (literally) carried me through. All the memories that it's a part of; good and bad. I'm a sentimental bastard, and it's going to be really tough bringing that old car back to the dealership.

That old car drove me to the liquor store more times than I can count. It also drove me to a detox facility. That car drove me and my ex around for countless adventures, both big and small. I was also sitting in it when over the phone she told me she was leaving me, and told me I needed to get help with my drinking. And I did get help, through Alcoholics Anonymous. And this car has driven me to every AA meeting I have ever been to.

And that is what helps me to see a car as a tool of connecting people. All of the meetings I have gone to, and all the friends I have made in those meetings, none of that would have been possible without that car. The family of people also seeking recovery that I have had the absolute pleasure of surrounding myself with, I owe in part to that car, and its ability to get me where I need to go.

Found family. Cars. What a perfect time in my life to see the 10th entry in the seemingly never ending Fast & Furious saga.

What started as a small, core group of street racers turned thieves, over 22 years of film, (I've never felt older) has evolved into a family of multi-disciplined, diverse individuals. Some are blood, but more of them aren't. And that is what I find myself with now; an ever growing group of friends, with such different stories and from all different walks of life. We all have one thing in common; wanting to recover from addiction. It's not as cinematic as bonding over supercars and nitrous oxide, but it is the glue that binds us.

When I first entered the program, I was extremely hesitant about reaching out and making friends. I would sit through meetings, speak only when spoken to, and head out as soon as the thing ended. I have never been a very social person. And I thought, "If I can barely communicate with my own family, how could I ever get that comfortable with total strangers?" And so, in a move that is so, so very me, I didn't even try. And it was my undoing. My sponsor, and AA literature make it pretty clear that helping one another and building connections with other alcoholics is one of the primary actions that help us maintain our sobriety. And I was not doing that. I found myself isolating. I found myself very lonely. That, along with some other factors that began to pile up, led to a brief, unfortunate relapse.

I won't go into the details, because I already detailed my relapse when I wrote about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.  But in bouncing back from that, following the direction from my sponsor, I have been trying to stay in the middle of the herd in AA. I'm making at least 3 phone calls a day to other alcoholics. And it has oftentimes been extremely uncomfortable! Like I mentioned before, I am not exactly a social butterfly by nature. But the more I call, the more comfortable it becomes. And the more calls I make, the better I get at making connections in person. I've already had a couple of people tell me that I already "seem like I'm in a better place" even just 37 days removed from the relapse. Some days I do feel like I'm in a better place. Some times I don't. Progress, not perfection.

If you have any familiarity with the Fast & Furious films, you know that after the team accomplishes the mission, the films usually end with Dom's crew having a cookout in the backyard. There is usually a moment where Dom looks around, really taking in his family. It cuts back to Dom with a smile. I had that exact moment in the middle of my homegroup the other night. It was quiet. The facilitator was reading from our literature. I looked in front of me and saw friends. I looked behind me and saw friends. To my right and left; more friends. I felt a warmth in my heart that no drink and no drug could recreate. And I was really happy.

I've lost some people, too. The ones that have died, unlike the movies, aren't coming back. There are people who have left and come back. There are people who left that I don't think I'll ever get back, despite how much I want it. There are no surprise after-credits scenes in real life, where the person you though was gone forever has suddenly returned. There is no way to rewrite the continuity of your life. All I can do is try to be thankful for what, and more importantly who, I have in my life right now. And some days I am still more sad for what I have lost than glad for what I have gained. I'm told it gets better. So I'm going to keep trying.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

A Stupid Fucking Marvel Movie Made Me Introspective About Alcoholism & Love

The opening moments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 tease something that swerved dangerously close to home for this writer. A forlorn Star-Lord (real-life dickhead Chris Pratt) sits passed out at a table, empty bottles of alcohol littering the counter in front of him. Peter Quill can’t get over his ex-girlfriend Gamora, and he doesn’t know how to cope. And the people around him are sick of his bullshit.

In 2019, I hit the self-destruct button on my life. My alcoholism began when I was 9 years into a relationship that I desperately wanted out of but didn’t have the wherewithal to leave on my own. I didn’t know how to be with her, but I also didn’t know how to be alone. And being alone was much more frightening. Eventually, through behavior and decisions that I am so thoroughly embarrassed and humiliated by, I gave her no choice but to leave. But I wasn’t alone. Alcohol became my full-time partner.

For months I drank like a fish, and I slept around. There was a hole in my heart the size of Texas, and I was trying to plug it with things that only granted but a temporary reprieve. No one and nothing made me happy. I wanted to die.

In early 2020, I met someone at work. I fell in love again, and this time it was real. The pandemic hit, and the following 2 years were the best years of my life, even though the world was dying. Our place of work shut down because of the pandemic. Against better judgement, we continued to meet up. We had nothing but time, and we spent all of it together. We would sit in the car and just talk for hours. We spent time outdoors walking trails and hiking. It was total magic.

I thought she was my solution. I thought that I could and would stop drinking for her. And I did briefly, on and off. But the truth of the matter was this; I still didn’t know how to be alone. I had no relationship with myself. I had no idea who I was outside the context of a relationship. I was a ticking time bomb.

Slowly but surely the world began to open back up. Things started to return to business as usual. She was hanging out with friends more. She was traveling again. These things were her passions. These things made her happy, and I wanted to play no part in denying her those joys.

But this suddenly left me with a lot of time alone. I had made her my world, and I started to realize how empty my life was without her by my side. I had lost contact with almost all of my close friends. I had lost sight of the things that I was passionate about. I realized that my well of self-pity knew no bottom.

When she would travel, I would drink. That is how I utilized my drinking; as a sort of fast-forward button. If I was constantly unconscious, time would go by faster, and she would be home sooner. I was that terrified of being alone with myself. I was never honest with her about how much I was hurting. I didn’t want her to worry. I didn’t want to ruin her trips. I suffered in silence until it ruined everything.

Eventually she went away for a month, to do volunteer work in another country. That is the type of person she is. Truly selfless. It is one of the innumerable reasons that I loved her. But I was the total antithesis of her. I was totally consumed with myself. All I could think of was how much I hated myself or how miserable I was. I didn’t know it then, but I was all ego. I had always made ego and pride synonymous in my head. I would later come to the realization that self-pity and self-hatred are still just forms of selfishness, even if they have negative connotations. So, when she told me her plans to travel and volunteer, instead of being proud of her or happy for her, I became instantly terrified of the month long binge that was to come. I made it all about me and how it would hurt me. This time fear got the best of me, and on several occasions, I tried to convince her to stay, or to cut the trip down to a shorter duration. But she rightfully didn’t back down, and eventually I relented.

I did exactly what I knew I would do when she was gone. I drank like mad for the month. I had every intention of stopping when she got back.

By the time she got back, I couldn’t stop. I tried. But then the shakes, the cold sweats, and the tremendous anxiety would begin. The only thing that would settle me was a drink. I was totally in the grip of it again. The battle was lost. Alcohol had won. I was powerless.

I started becoming a complete and total miserable bastard. I was no longer pleasant to be around. I was quieter. I was angrier. I was less patient. I couldn’t enjoy things anymore because my disease was constantly trying to inch my closer to a drink. I started canceling plans because I needed to drink. I would cut plans short to get to the liquor store before it closed. I started missing work because I was too sick in the morning to go in. I started causing arguments for no reason.

I brought one such argument, over something so trivial that I don’t even remember what it was about, to a very dark place. Then I blacked out. I left her to agonize and worry.

In the morning, I tried to apologize, like I had done countless times before. That morning it wasn’t enough. She was done. She told me that I needed help. I was on my own again.

Heartbroken, I resolved myself to drinking alone on the couch until I died. It sounds dramatic, because it was. But it was the truth. I once again found myself wishing for death. At some point in that haze of near constant unconsciousness, I made a call. I don’t remember the call, or who it was with. But I set myself up with a detox program. My parents drove me later that day. I went in dead sober. I would be there for up to 7 days. That felt like an eternity, at the time. My sick brain told me that if I could get my shit together in those 7 days, she would take me back. I would emerge from the 7 day detox as the god of sobriety, and I would get my life back. This would prove ruinous.

I went to detox. I drank coffee and ate ice cream. I did art. I spoke with my counselor. She recommended a 30 day rehab. My disease told me I wasn’t as bad as the other people there. My disease told me I didn’t need all that. I was setup with an outpatient program near home, and I left.

I did not get the girl back when I left. I had not learned anything. I did not pass “GO”, and I did not collect $200. Within a couple of days my mom was admitted to the hospital and I had developed no coping skills to deal with the fear that I was suddenly faced with. So I did the only thing I knew; I drank. I blacked out and couldn’t drive my father to the hospital to see her. I had never known shame and guilt like I did when I came to that evening. Luckily my mother ended up being ok, but what if she hadn't been?

I packed my bags again. I filled an empty Wendy’s cup with bourbon and hit the road. I showed up on the doorstep of the detox again unannounced and was admitted once again. This time I listened more. This time I took suggestions. This time I went to the 30 day program.

I stayed in that 30 day program for 60 days. Those 60 days were fraught with their own peril. While there, I distracted myself with things and people that briefly helped me escape from my heartbreak and my disease. I built a total fantasy in my head of what life would be like when I got out. I was living in a delusion. I ultimately misspent a majority of my time there. My body had recovered, but my mind was still very sick.

When I realized the depth of my delusion, and how much time I had wasted, I left rehab against medical advice. I had no aftercare plan. I didn’t have the girl. I didn’t have anything. I begged them to let me back into treatment, because I knew what was going to happen if they didn’t. They denied me, and I did what I always did.

When I came to after this relapse, I had several self-inflicted gashes on my wrists and arms. My mother was banging on my door telling me that the police were coming. In my blackout, I had written a note to the woman I loved. I hurt myself, and I waited to die. Again. I had also sent a text message to the alumni coordinator at my rehab, telling him my plan and blaming him for not helping me get back in to treatment. He called my local police department for the wellness check. He called my mom and let her know what was happening. He saved my life. The police came, and brought me to the local hospital, and that hospital eventually transferred me to a psychiatric hospital.

I spent 7 of the loneliest days of my life there. My family was so tired. I was so tired. People stopped taking my calls. I had finally been granted the Gift of Desperation. I knew I could no longer handle this on my own.

I got out and I began participating in a program of recovery. I took more suggestions, and even did most of them. I started doing the work, and things started to change.

I had 5 decent months of sobriety before the things that haunted me started dragging me back down. I had set certain expectations, some consciously and some unconsciously, and when they were not met, I began to lose my resolve.

“I thought I would be happier by now.”

“I thought if I did this work, and bettered myself, we would be back together by now.”

It all eventually came to a head in April of this year. I drank again for 1 night. I briefly revisited the horror. I immediately came clean to my parents and my sponsor. The next day, my sponsor came to my house, picked me up, and I jumped right back into my program. Often when people like me relapse, they are out of commission for at least weeks, often months, and sometimes years. Some never make it back at all. It is nothing short of a miracle that I was able to drink for that one night and bring myself back into the fold.

As of this writing, I am coming up on 30 days of sobriety again. I’m doing things a little bit differently. I’m trying not to set expectations. I’m trying to revisit and reclaim the things that the Gift of Desperation granted me. I’m reaching out and trying to make friends and build relationships. I’m taking things 1 minute at a time.

At this point you’re probably asking “Ok you're a drunk, we get it, great sob story, but what the hell does it have to do with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?”

Well, actually very little. Because after that opening sequence I mentioned up top, the movie largely becomes about a cartoon raccoon. But let me digress.


Star-Lord is snapped out of his stupor when, unannounced, Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) shows up to the Guardians’ base and begins kicking the shit out of him and all his friends. The confrontation leaves Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) on death’s door, and Star-Lord's malaise is replaced with a steadfast determination to save his best friend’s life.

My sponsor tells me that helping another person, and in my case specifically helping another alcoholic, will be the medicine that helps me stay sober. Reaching out and taking an honest interest in the wellbeing of my friends will contribute to my wellbeing. Being there for the people I care about, like Star-Lord is for Rocket, will help me more than anything else. I am trying to put this into practice, slowly but surely, and I’m already starting to see the fruits of my labors.

Star-Lord ultimately reunites with Gamora, and the crew is able to save Rocket Raccoon. Star-Lord and Gamora share a brief, beautiful moment, but ultimately go their separate ways for their own happy endings. Gamora returns to her new found-family amongst The Ravagers, and Star-Lord returns to Earth to find himself, and to reconnect with his family.

I hope I can be a little bit more like Star-Lord. I hope I can get to know myself better. I hope I can reconnect with my family. I hope that I can let go of the past and be content with the present. I hope that I can help people. And I really hope that I can learn to accept that sometimes, even if we love someone very much, they might be better off without us.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Slumber Party Massacre (2021)


It wasn't until this year that I took the time to experience the joys of the original 1982 Slumber Party Massacre and 1987's even weirder Slumber Party Massacre 2. The female written and directed series (Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown on number one, and Deborah Brock on number two) is a lot more thoughtful and feminist than their titles may suggest. Male characters barely exist, or are completely and purposefully underwritten. That is, other than the Driller Killer himself, Russ Thorn, a madman with an enormous phallic power drill.

Thematically the series is very rich, so the 2021 version of The Slumber Party Massacre has a whole lot to. Not only does it have to carry with it the ideas first put forth by the originals, but it also has to exist competently in a post Me Too era, which piles on a lot more baggage for this kind of story to juggle.

The Slumber Party Massacre begins in a way that is instantly pretty off-putting. The "SyFy Original" of it all seems to immediately show itself. Unknown actors spouting hammy dialogue and cheap sets where doors do not meet flush with theirs frames are pervasive. The camp of it all is very reminiscent of Slumber Party Massacre 2, which is pretty gonzo.

There is a twist at the end of the first act that caught me completely off-guard, and completely recontextualizes the beginning of the film, making the cheese and the camp click in a way that I did not expect to happen. It's so good that I wouldn't dare to spoil it here.

The film is very heavy handed with its metatextual ideas. The group of young men in the film behave in the ways that are most regularly saved for teenage girls in films. They take their clothes off and have a pillow fight. They poor champagne on each other. Towards the end of the film, a man takes a slow motion shower with several straight on ass shots. There are characters named Guy #1 and Guy #2. It's about as subtle as a brick to the head, but damn is it all so funny. There are so many other instances of the film subverting expectations, and I'm so excited for audiences to take it all in.

The Slumber Party Massacre is so smart and so even handed, and deftly tackles its subject matter in a way that updates it for the modern world. If you're a fan of the original movies, you're really going to love this remake. And even if you aren't, I think you'll have a lot of fun with the twists and turns that this one takes.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Halloween Kills

 It wouldn't be far off to say that Halloween Kills was one of my most anticipated films of the year. 2018's Halloween, also directed by David Gordon Green, was a surprising delight. It really zeroed in on what makes Halloween special as a franchise, and seemed to have a strong understanding of Michael Myers as a unstoppable force of evil, and what his motivations are. It tackled the ideas of generation horror and trauma, and how it trickles down through the generations.

Halloween Kills jettisons all of the intelligent thematic content, and instead brings more gruesome kills, and a higher overall body count. It learns all of the wrong lessons from its predecessor, and delivers something much less meaningful, and more just mean.

The biggest, most baffling problem with Halloween Kills is that it sidelines Laurie Strode for about 85% of the film's runtime. It instead focuses largely on a handful of ancillary characters from the original 1978 film, characters so memorable that I don't remember a single one of their names or history. I believe one or more of them were kids that were being babysat during Michael Myer's original spree. I'm not sure what drove the filmmakers to make these characters the focus, and with the film's relatively short runtime, we definitely don't have enough time to learn to care about them. And it doesn't really seems like the film itself is terribly interested in them either, as most of the group is quickly and easily dispatched by Michael Myers. The only thing I can fathom them thinking was the the nostalgia factor was what made Halloween (2018) memorable with fans, and that fitting any character with any level of history with the franchise would be just as beloved as Laurie Strode. But having Jamie Lee Curtis mostly in a hospital bed for the duration film handicaps it in such a major way. She is the main character of the series, and she is the through line for basically every movie, even the ones that are no longer canonical. Halloween Kills concentrates its development for the Strode women until the last 10-15 minutes of the movie, and it is all just too little too late.

In its own extremely clunky way, Halloween Kills also feels like its trying to be a commentary on the January 6 Raid of the US capitol. One of our main characters in this film runs around forming an armed militia of ignorant, angry people to hunt down Michael Myers. He is successful, and they run march around chanting meaningless drivel. In the end, their antics end in the unnecessary death of an innocent man, and ultimately all of their deaths. They enact no meaningful change, and much more harm than good. The movie feels the need to make all of these direct parallels, but does not seem to have any insight or new things to say about it. It is just cumbersome, boring, and further hinders the movie being very interesting ideas.

Halloween Kills has pretty much sapped my interest in the third entry coming next year, Halloween Ends. I hope they take the right notes from the negative critical response to this film, and try to make something a little more in line with the 2018 entry.