Then here are some ideas for what you might to read, watch or listen to next?
Then here are some ideas for what you might to read, watch or listen to next?
Female superheroes are where it’s at. Just ask Wonder Woman (but we don’t speak of the Justice League movie). I’m glad film studios are finally realizing people want to see movies starring female heroes. I’ve been waiting for this adaptation since they announced it in, what, 2014? Carol Danvers is kickass in every way you can be. Smart, strong, powerful, and hilarious – she’s a kick ass, smart ass badass. Whether she’s beating baddies from outer space or palling around with the rest of the Avengers, she’s always got a zinger up her sleeve. She is tied with Wonder Woman for my favourite superhero and I cannot wait for the movie. To help hold me—I mean you—over until the movie, here are 20 Captain Marvel quotes!
“My name is Carol Danvers. Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t fit in. See, I always wanted to fly.”
—Captain Marvel Primer Pages (2017)
“Even with my back against the wall—I don’t give up!”
—Ms. Marvel Vol 1 #17
“You don’t have to thank me. I absorbed you. We’re practically related.”
—Captain Marvel Vol 7 #8
“I don’t need a power-up to kick your ass, slimeball. I got some moves”
—Captain Marvel Vol 8 #14
“This isn’t a question of what I’m not. This is a question of who I could be.”
—Giant-Size Ms. Marvel Vol 1 #1
“I couldn’t tell them the truth…it wasn’t that we couldn’t go back…it was that I don’t know if I wanted to.”
—Mighty Captain Marvel Vol 1 #9
“Yeah, laugh it up, Mr. Potato Head. Let’s see, which tiny appendage should I rip off first?”
—Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #17
“I’m sorry…sorry I’m a badass.”
—Captain Marvel Vol 7 #16
“These are not the droids you’re looking for. …It was worth a shot.”
—Captain Marvel #1
“Don’t you ‘lady’ me, son. I’m an avenger.”
—Avenging Spider-Man 9
“Preeeetty sure nothing bad can happen when I’m wearing my lucky hat.”
—Captain Marvel #9
“But being the best you can be…That’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”
—Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #50
“Now if you’ll excuse me…I need to go punch a dinosaur.”
—Captain Marvel #9
“No one steals my flerken cat!”
—Captain Marvel Vol 8 #2
“Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again…A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that moment, every little girl flies.”
—Captain Marvel Vol 8 #1
“Make the coffee and I might let you live.”
—Captain Marvel Book 2: Stay Fly (#7-11)
“Fear is not a choice. What you do with it is.”
—Captain Marvel #10
“Let’s rewrite some history, shall we?”
—Captain Marvel #2
“You wanna be excellent? Really excellent at what you do? Then be excellent every day, in every part of your life. That’s how the great ones do it.”
—Avengers (2018) #11
“Well…First there was nothing, then there was everything…Then the good lord saw fit to bring me into the world to kick the asses of those who need it most. So get ready ’cause this day or the next, it’s coming.”
—Avengers Vol 5 #19
And a bonus from the movie trailer:
“I’m not going to fight your war. I’m going to end it.”
Standard caveats (really standard — same as last year!): I don’t watch everything. I am behind on many things. That’s just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn’t here, it is not a rebuke.
And: These are cultural — mostly pop-cultural — things. These are not the best things in the world. Like yours, my actual list of wonderful things from the year, if I wrote it in a journal instead of for work, would be a list of people and moments spent with them, of days when it was unexpectedly sunny and of times when things suddenly felt better. But whatever journey you’re on at any given moment, you can always use more good things. So here we go.
1. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lively performance of “A Cover Is Not the Book,” a preposterously catchy dance-hall number in Mary Poppins Returns.
2. Miles Morales’ father talking to him through his door in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The film is full of visually inventive sequences, but this emotional scene between father and son might be its most important moment.
3. “Must the duck be here?” Yorgos Lanthimos’ royal court comedy-drama The Favourite isn’t as fussy as it could have turned out, and it runs on the performances of Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Its absurdity is carefully apportioned, including when Harley (Nicholas Hoult), exasperated by a companion’s feathered pal, wonders whether the room could be smaller by a couple of webbed feet.
4. The climactic moment of Steve McQueen’s Widows. It’s been hard to explain this difficult and thoughtful but also exhilarating heist film to audiences. But as it reaches its end and concludes as it must, Viola Davis stands in for many women who have simply had enough.
5. The gold shades of If Beale Street Could Talk. Barry Jenkins’ entire film is a series of lush images, beginning with the breathtaking opening shots, in which Tish’s (KiKi Layne) coat and Fonny’s (Stephan James) shirt and the canopy of leaves in their neighborhood are all the same autumn gold.
6. Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant’s final scene in Can You Ever Forgive Me? McCarthy, as a curmudgeonly forger, and Grant, as her lonely accomplice and only real friend, meet up at the end of Marielle Heller’s film after a long estrangement. And while the scene is deeply felt, it doesn’t betray the story’s fundamental sense of isolation.
7. Carla Gugino’s performance in Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. The series was uneven and overlong, but one part that was riveting throughout was Gugino’s work as Olivia Crain, a mother slowly feeling her grip on reality slide.
8. The blues of Wildlife. Directed by Paul Dano and written by Dano and Zoe Kazan, the family drama Wildlife showcased great work from Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ed Oxenbould. But it also stands out as a stunning example of color in visual storytelling. Watch the film when you can, and watch for where the blue is, where the neutrals are, and where unexpected colors are. It’s a fully thought-out color story in a way that’s immensely satisfying.
9. “Shallow.” For all the fuss that came and went over Bradley Cooper’s reimagining of the oft-told show-business tragedy A Star Is Born, the moment that stuck — for good reason — was Lady Gaga and Cooper performing the song “Shallow,” which Gaga wrote with her collaborators. In that moment, it’s utterly believable that Ally and Jackson are falling in love and finding that love in art, despite the fact that the literal telling of the tale, in which she warbles a bit of it in a parking lot and he completes a full arrangement with which she sings along flawlessly, doesn’t make the least bit of sense.
10. Blake Lively’s various looks in A Simple Favor. A tonally playful film, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor is funny and tense and over-the-top all at once. One of its signatures is Blake Lively’s gorgeous menswear-inspired wardrobe, which plays against Anna Kendrick’s almost cartoonish femininity. Everyone in the film looks great, and the film looks great, and it continues Feig’s history of working very effectively with actresses to showcase notes they haven’t quite hit before.
11. The Good Place: The Podcast. Behind-the-scenes podcasts are difficult. They can easily collapse into a bunch of people talking about how great it is to work together which, without more, isn’t much. The Good Place: The Podcast, however, hosted by actor Marc Evan Jackson, makes the formula work. They interview not only actors and writers, but also folks who work in areas like effects, set design, props, music and stunts. Taken together, the podcast’s run is a great way to learn how TV shows work and how many people put their full hearts into the ones that are good.
12. The opening montage of Forever. The showstarred Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph as a couple whose marriage faced a very unexpected set of circumstances. And while not all of it worked, the opening sequence, showing how a couple can go from blissfully in love to contentedly in love to companionably cohabitating, was efficient and alarmingly plausible.
13. Peter Kavinsky’s selfie. The Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA romance To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was a hit, not to mention a real boon to lovers of romantic comedy in general. And while its final scene is swoonworthy and its adorable flirtations are many, none stayed with me quite like Peter (Noah Centineo) taking a selfie for Lara Jean (Lana Condor) to use as the background on her phone. Gently and confidently funny (only because you know it’s supposed to be funny), it’s one of the moments that make it believable that Peter is very, very excited about Lara Jean.
14. The wig throw. Look, there are so many things to love about Black Panther. How do we choose? Well, I choose the moment in which Okoye (Danai Gurira) hurls her wig at one of the men attacking her, just long enough for it to distract him. Wigs detached from heads (and sometimes on heads) are inherently funny and that scene is inherently great, so it winds up being one of the film’s OH BOY NO WAY moments that work especially well in a crowded theater.
15. The end of Avengers: Infinity War. If you haven’t yet seen the penultimate installment in this set of Avengers films, just move right along. Skip this one. Don’t spoil yourself. Okay, if you’re still here, I assume you know that there were heavy losses at the end of the film (most of which, sure, will be undone in the next). Peter Parker (Tom Holland), in particular, was allowed to show fear as he began to vanish, and that fear and panic made his (come on, surely temporary) loss all the more emotional.
16. “Oh no, he died.” The comedy Game Night is much, much better than it sounds like it would be, thanks in part to the cast. Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury … everybody is good. But there is no performance in the film better than Rachel McAdams as Annie, a deadly serious competitor on game night with her friends who becomes a surprised participant in what film-lovers know as One Crazy Night. You can already know going into it that you will hear her say “Oh no, he died!” at one point and it will be one of the best line-readings of the year. It will still make you laugh. I can still watch it now and still laugh. Putting this together, I just did.
17. The scene where Kayla’s dad comes clean about his fears. There has been a ton of praise, all earned and all deserved, for Elsie Fisher’s performance as young Kayla in Bo Burnham’s stunning Eighth Grade. But the film also relies on Josh Hamilton as Kayla’s father. In one scene, the focus briefly shifts to him as he tries to explain how much he loves her and how much he loves being her father. There isn’t a false note. It’s a beautiful scene.
18. The Rumble In The Restroom. Little bits of the fight scene in which Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill and Liang Yang bounce each other off walls and sinks and mirrors started to circulate well before the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. But in the end, the whole thing was as claustrophobic, exciting, stylish and sort of funny as you could have possibly hoped.
19. Cate Blanchett’s suits in Ocean’s 8. If you saw the film, then you know.
20. The singing lineup. As depressing as it was to see Fox cancel the fantastic comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, that’s how much fun it was to see NBC pick it right back up again for a sixth season that will start just after the new year. Where would we be without Jake Peralta having the guys in a police lineup sing “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys?
21. Tully‘s montage. It was a good year for montages, actually, and like the one in Forever, the one in Tully that showed the drudgery and monotony of caring for an infant gave us something that only a sequence like that can do. It compressed time — faster and faster, in fact — to tell a story about a lot of moments, none of which are memorable.
22. Sandra Oh in Killing Eve. All the performances in the BBC America series are terrific. But Sandra Oh, who has been one of our most indispensable actresses for many years, played the obsessed spy with an intensity and vulnerability that helped Jodie Comer’s somewhat broader portrayal of the assassin Villanelle remain grounded.
23. A Quiet Place‘s final shot. The entire film is almost unbearably tense, since one key to survival is to stay silent even as danger mounts, passes or arrives. It becomes difficult to imagine what could be a satisfying conclusion — what could feel fair and consistent with the story and not, at some level, just nihilistic and awful. It’s very smart that the story ends where it does — which I wouldn’t dare to give away.
24. John Mulaney and the horse in the hospital. Mulaney’s special Kid Gorgeous has long sections devoted to stranger-danger training and Saturday Night Live. But the peak is an extended simile in which he compares politics to having a horse loose in a hospital. Even if nothing else in the special worked, it would be an astounding document just for that.
25. The last line of Barry. The comedy-drama Barry stars Bill Hader as a hit man trying to go straight, in part by taking acting classes. While it sounds like the setup for black comedy only, the first season builds to a final sequence in which the entire point of the story and the entire meaning of the character’s experience up to this point come into focus in one jarring moment.
26. A dogfight over some garbage. I wound up having mixed feelings about Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, but a sequence in which two packs of dogs scrap over discarded and rotting food, all the while calmly negotiating over how to proceed, turns into a delightful Looney-Tunes-ish moment.
27. Chris Pine in A Wrinkle in Time. I was candidly baffled by the public ambivalence about Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle novel, in part because the relationship between Meg (Storm Reid) and her father, played by Pine, was so moving. He’s just wonderful in it, human and scared, brilliant and lost.
28. New Greg. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is approaching the end of its run. The creators, not surprisingly, decided that it would be a better story if Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) got to close the loop on her relationship with old boyfriend Greg. But when Greg’s original portrayer, Santino Fontana, wasn’t available, they recast with Skylar Astin. But they didn’t pretend it hadn’t happened. Instead, they used the change as a way to play with the idea that when you have changed and someone else has changed in the years since you dated each other, it can feel like the ex is literally a different person. It’s a clever and respectful way to recast a character who was much loved.
29. The sad, exciting, adventurous, devastating portrayal of middle school in the Netflix series Everything Sucks! Rarely has coming of age been so fairly and painfully drawn.
30. Revisiting ER. One of the fun things that happens in the streaming era is that when a series becomes available in a new place, it can be an excuse to talk about it. That’s what happened when all 15 seasons of ER arrived on Hulu in January. It became an opportunity to look back on an influential show, its blind spots and its stars in the making.
31. The Annihilation plants. Alex Garland’s thriller Annihilation features great performances from actresses including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But it also showcases genuinely beautiful visual effects. That’s not only the case in its purely frightening sequences or its curious finale. It’s true throughout, with the creation of unusual plants and strange sights that signal to the traveling women that they are somewhere they’re unprepared to be.
32. Successful reinventions. When The Great British Bake Off, broadcast in the United States as The Great British Baking Show, moved from the BBC to Channel 4, it lost judge Mary Berry and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Without them, it was almost impossible to imagine it continuing. Nevertheless, while it feels disloyal to say so, those charged with carrying on have actually done a marvelous job. Hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig have a very different but also entertaining dynamic, while judge Prue Leith is just a bit more naughty than Berry was, making her able to play off the eternally self-important Paul Hollywood in a slightly different way.
33. The two episodes of the podcast Reply All about policing. In a way no individual true crime podcast could, these episodes, called “The Crime Machine,” shed light on the development of New York’s crime statistics system and how a tool intended to create more just results became a weapon used against people who are already marginalized.
34. James Acaster’s Repertoire. Acaster, a British comic, released a set of four specials on Netflix in March together under the label Repertoire. They’re brilliantly structured, weird, insightful and profoundly funny.
35. Paige on the platform. The series finale of The Americans was wrenching in different ways than longtime viewers of the spy show might have expected. Maybe the biggest reveal in the entire run, though, happens the last time Paige (Holly Taylor) and her mother Elizabeth (Keri Russell) make eye contact. Perfectly timed to the period music that was always so thoughtfully used to score important scenes, it was more dramatic than any of the Jenningses’ capers.
36. In a world full of woe, there’s nothing that’s grown on me like Billy on the Street. It is an extremely your-mileage-may-vary situation, but in short bursts, I am always cheered by Billy Eichner running around the streets of New York surprising people and asking them questions. All that despite the fact that I would never want it to happen to me.
37. The second season of Netflix’s One Day at a Time was just as good as the first — that’s a very high bar. And the season finale, which featured Rita Moreno wrenching the tears from your very eyeballs, was shamelessly manipulative and very moving and very sweet. It was all you could ask from your favorite family show.
38. The capes of Lando. Not everything about Solo was successful, to say the least. But Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian was such a fine invention that it often seemed like it should have been his movie. I’d have watched a film about just his cape choices.
39. The Tara Westover book Educated, a memoir of Westover’s childhood, is sometimes terrifying, sometimes upsetting, and sometimes even inspiring. While it’s a hard read about a family’s isolation, it’s a riveting family story that makes for great conversations with friends.
40. Focaccia lessons. The Samin Nosrat book Salt Fat Acid Heat led to a four-part Netflix series of the same name. And while it seems weird that the Fat episode is first (making the series feel more like … Fat Salt Acid Heat?), it makes sense that they’d want to lead with the frankly sexy scene in which Nosrat learns to make focaccia with high-end olive oil. It will make you want to bake bread, at the very least.
41. Russell Hornsby in The Hate U Give. Hornsby plays the father of young Starr Carter in the adaptation of Angie Thomas’ hugely successful YA novel. And while Amandla Stenberg and Regina Hall and a lot of other folks are terrific in it, none stands out more than Hornsby, whose complicated portrayal of a dad who wants the best for his daughter gives the story much of its sizable heart.
42. Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians. When you’ve been watching an actress kill it as long as she has on ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, seeing Wu have a huge year in a huge film can be so inspiring. Wu got to be glamorous and sparkly and funny in Crazy Rich Asians, and she deserves every magazine cover she got.
43. Mrs. Rogers. The documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the story of Fred Rogers and his work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But it also becomes the story of his wife Joanne, who likely knew this complicated man better than anyone, and who provides humanizing insight into the man behind the cardigans.
44. Windows in windows in Searching. Very few stories reliant on technology work very well. Searching, starring John Cho as David, the father of a missing teenager, takes place entirely on screens — mostly on her laptop, as you see the texts and chats and messages and emails and videos he looks through while trying to find her. One of the film’s best qualities is that David isn’t either a tech genius or a dummy who has to learn what an emoji is. He’s somewhere in between, where a lot of parents fear they would be. Cho’s performance and the cleverness of the presentation make the film well worth seeing.
45. Jack-Jack. Hiding inside Incredibles 2 is a sequence in which Jack-Jack, the superhero baby (maybe), gets into a fight in the backyard. Worthy of any classic Saturday morning cartoon, the fight is a fully contained and fully delightful adventure of its own.
46. Mortal danger, by choice. Free Solo is the story of Alex Honnold, who set out to do something he’d dreamed of doing for ages. He wanted to “free solo” climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. “Free solo” means rock-climbing with no ropes, no safety harness, no nothing. Just you, skittering up a flat rock face. And while the climbing sequences are unforgettable (see it on the biggest screen you can; it’s out now), the filmmakers also examine what it is that makes a guy want to do something like this when everyone acknowledges that death is a very real possibility.
47. The other lost teenager. Leave No Trace, directed by Debra Granik, didn’t get as much attention as Eighth Grade did. But it, too, contains a beautiful story of a father and his young teenage daughter. Here, Ben Foster plays a dad who lives in the woods with his daughter, played by Thomasin McKenzie. McKenzie’s quiet portrayal of a girl fiercely loyal to a father she doesn’t entirely understand gives the movie its serene sadness, very much grounded in love.
48. Frederick Wiseman’s Monrovia, Indiana is a documentary that (as is Wiseman’s way) only observes the town of Monrovia and never comments on it with narration or talking heads. This leads to some remarkable sequences, like one in which many of us will see our longest-ever look at a Freemasons’ ceremony.
49. The #Hamildrops. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s series of monthly additions to the Hamilton canon could have seemed like a desperate attempt to keep the brand going as the touring companies travel. But it didn’t. “First Burn,” an earlier draft of Eliza’s angry song aimed at her husband, let listeners glimpse a process that’s often opaque. In some cases, it may even put them in a position to second-guess the composer about what was left in and what was taken out. That’s a vulnerability not everyone wants to display.
50. Dog Twitter. I simply can’t end 2018 without mentioning that, because this was the year I got a dog, it was also the year I discovered Dog Twitter. To all of you who sent me photos of your dogs — in hats, in sweaters, begging, wagging their tails — I thank you. I’m glad we’re all here on Dog Twitter together.
The Golden Globe 2019 nominations are out, and they only strengthen my personal belief that books make for good TV and movies. Nineteen (!) of the nominations is major categories have been adapted from books of a variety of genres this year, and we’re here to give you a rundown. (All quoted descriptions are from Goodreads.)
Based on the novel the same name by Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects has been nominated for Best Television Seriesand Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Amy Adams). The show is A+ spooky with some excellent performances, including Adams’s portrayal of a complicated and flawed heroine.
THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY
Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, the movie has been nominated for five categories, including Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel of the same name, The Handmaid’s Taleswept the Emmy’s last year as well, and has been nominated for two categories, with Elizabeth Moss in the running for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama. We are absolutely devastated by the world the show portrays, and yet we can’t look away.
Yes, yes, this was a 2018 release! Based on the superhero Marvel comics, the movie was the second-highest-grossing film of 2018 and became a global phenomenon. It has been nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the Ryan Gosling movie has received two nominations.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
Based on the series of children’s books by P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins, the new movie, starring Emily Blunt, has four nominations, and hits theaters in ten days’ times. Watch the trailer here.
Based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr, the psychological thriller-drama starring Dakota Fanning, has two nominations.
A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL
Based on John Preston’s book of the same name.
“In 1979, Jeremy Thorpe, the rising star of the Liberal Party, stood trial for conspiracy to murder. It was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge. It was the first time that a murder plot had been hatched in the House of Commons. And it was the first time that a prominent public figure had been exposed as a philandering homosexual.” The TV series stars Hugh Grant.
Based on the YA novel by Julie Murphy, the upcoming musical comedy is highly anticipated. “Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. …until (she) takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.” Watch the trailer here.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Based on James Baldwin’s novel of the same name.
“Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions-affection, despair, and hope.”
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Based on the Marvel superhero, this animated film is highly anticipated and releases in a week’s time. It is set in a multi-verse, where Spider-Man gets to team up with other Spider-Men and Spider-Women. Watch the trailer here!
Based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon, the TV show is in its fourth season, and has been bagging awards every year. Featuring a time-travelling romance, it has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama (Catriona Balfe).
Based on Codename Villanelle, a series of novellas, this Sandra Oh-starrer has been nominated under Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama. And tune in to the Golden Globes to see Sandra Oh co-host with Brooklyn Nine Nine‘s Andy Samberg!
Based on the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife is a wise, sharp-eyed, compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. But it’s also an unusually candid look at the choices all men and women make for themselves, in marriage, work, and life.”
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Based on the first in the romantic comedy trilogy by Kevin Kwan, this movie was one of the few bright spots of 2018. Starring Constance Wu (who is nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, the movie has also been nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Spend some (imaginary) money in our quiz here to find out which CRA character you are!
Based on Black Klansman, a memoir by Ron Stallworth, the biographical comedy-drama has been highly acclaimed. Based in 1970s Colorado Springs, the movie follows the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs police department, who sets out to expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Based on Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir of the same name.
“The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life.” The lead actor, Lucas Hedges has been nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.
Based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. Timothee Chalamet is nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture for his performance in the movie.
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Based on Lee Israel’s 2008 memoir of the same name, the movie is an biographical comedy drama film, starring Melissa McCarthy.
“Mirai”, a Japanese animated film, has been nominated for Best Motion Picture – Animated, and was novelized by Yen Press in English. The book released this October.
Greetings, future toilers in the robot factories!
I’m Todd McAulty. I’m a science fiction writer. My first novel, THE ROBOTS OF GOTHAM, set in a future Chicago conquered by machines, was published in hardcover this week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Admittedly, science fiction writers don’t have much of a productive role to play in society. When we’re all working twenty hours a day in robot factories, we’ll be the ones getting chewed out by robotic overseers for constantly putting our slave collars on backwards. But we do have one sacred duty, and we take it seriously. It’s our job to prepare people for the future, ugly as it may be. We were the first ones to tell you about atomic power, Velcro, and the rise of hip hop. Yes, we missed the boat on Pokemon Go, but only because Neal Stephenson was on vacation that month.
The most helpful thing a science fiction writer can do today is to prepare you for the inevitable rise of our machine overlords. Yes, I know. You just got your deck resurfaced, and now you won’t get to enjoy it because you’ll soon be chained to a post, eating protein gruel and making power packs for a robot army. It could be worse. No, I don’t know how. Look, it’s just our job to tell you the bad news, not handhold you through the entire process.
Fortunately for me, most of the hard work preparing society for the robot uprising has already been done. Science fiction writers have been warning you about our future as second-class citizens for nearly a century, ever since Czech writer Karel Čapek penned the robot play R.U.R. in 1920, and Fritz Lang released the brilliant silent film Metropolis in 1927. If you haven’t got your escape route planned and your hidden mountain cave picked out by now, we wash our hands of you.
What’s that? You’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones and The Good Place, and totally missed all the warning signs science fiction has been spooning you for the past thirty years?
All right, fine. We’ve probably got some time before the robots make their first move. While we wait patiently for our slave collars, here’s a quick refresher course on all those important lessons you missed. We can’t cover them all, so I’ve condensed it down to a list of the Top Ten Evil Robots in Science Fiction. Study these carefully, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll be ready for your future role as a resistance fighter in burnt out urban trenches, or a loyal toady proudly posting proclamations on behalf of your robot masters. Wherever your career path takes you, we don’t judge.
A few caveats before we get started. We’re including only one evil robot per media franchise. Otherwise, let’s face it, this entire list would be made up of increasingly advanced Terminator models and five entries for Mechagodzilla. Also, we define ‘robot’ fairly loosely, to include pretty much any computer or algorithm with a nasty disposition.
With that, let’s plunge into the list!
[Caution: Spoilers for all the films mentioned below, plus Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, a bunch of Star Trek episodes, and other random stuff.]
Ultron is the newest robot on this list (and also the shiniest). That means he built on everything that came before, and it shows. Ingenious evil plan for world domination? Check. Witty villain dialog? Check. Killer robotic styling? Check.
But the real reason Ultron makes the list is that Age of Ultron – which earned nearly $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide — instantly made him an iconic villain. He fought the Avengers to a virtual standstill, and went down to defeat only because his own robot creation, Vision, turned against him.
That’s tough luck, and it shows that even the greatest robot villains can have an off day. Remember that when you’re dithering between enlisting in the human resistance, and signing up for a cushy job as a robot toady.
Technically, Megalon’s not really a robot. He’s a 180-foot tall cyborg god, unleashed by an undersea civilization to wreak havoc on surface dwellers in retaliation for thoughtless underwater atomic testing (as they do). However, once you surpass about 30 feet, all these classifications get a little meaningless, so we’re just going to go with ‘robot.’
Why is Megalon on this list, and not Godzilla’s other metal adversaries, like the entirely awesome Mechagodzilla? Well. While it’s true that Mechagodzilla successfully went toe-to-toe with the big guy in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Megalon has the distinction of facing off against bothGodzilla and his giant robot buddy Jet Jaguar, and acquitting himself admirably.
Also, there’s this. Yes, that’s Megalon on the receiving end of a drop kick by a 90-ton Godzilla. In my book, that earns you a place of pride in the Top 10 Evil Robots of All Time.
Ava almost didn’t make this list. And it’s because you can alllllmost be sympathetic to her plight.
She was made in an isolated laboratory by a textbook mad scientist and, despite the fact that she is without a doubt the most sophisticated artificial intelligence ever created, she’s scheduled to be cruelly dismantled for parts so her creator can get on with the business of creating the next model.
So, yeah, the murderous plot she hatches and executes really is all in the name of self-preservation. But it’s the way she does it that leaves you in a cold sweat. Her doe-eyed seduction of the naïve Caleb, and the grateful way she shields him from the worst of the violence, lulls you into a false sense of security. Until she coldly leaves him behind to die of starvation.
Also, she’s definitely the hottest robot on this list. I mean, woo. She is one hot robot. You can understand Caleb’s fascination with her, and the dawning horror he feels, helplessly watching her escape the compound. She is a ruthless and efficient killer slipping effortlessly into a world that doesn’t even know she exists.
It’s only as the credits come up in Ex Machina that you realize you’ve watched a horror film. And that gut punch you feel is because you understand Ava for the first time.
Like Ava in Ex Machina, Ash has secret motivations, and you sort of understand them. He’s an android secretly planted among a human crew by the evil Weyland-Yutani corporation, and he’s there to make sure nobody does anything to jeopardize profits. And that includes damaging a deadly alien specimen the bioweapons division would love to get their hands on.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Ash is an asshole. I mean, seriously. His entire crew is being systematically slaughtered by an alien xenomorph, and he’s secretly helping the thing? Dick move, Ash. You’re an evil robot, and you suck.
HAL is one of the oldest entries on this list – 50 years old this year! — and in many ways is the archetype for every evil computer of the last half century. Yes, people argue that HAL wasn’t really evil, that he was just confused, but those people want to suck the fun out of everything. HAL was evil, and we love him for it.
Is it true that when IBM refused to allow Arthur C. Clarke to name his evil computer the IBM 9000, Clarke just nudged all the letters in “IBM” down the alphabet by one to produce HAL? If not, it should be. If I were IBM, I’d put a big red glowing eye on every supercomputer I make from now on, and watch my stock take an easy 50% bump.
Roy Batty is a coldly ruthless killer, and richly deserves a place of honor on any list of Top Ten Evil Robots. When he and his band of replicants hijack a shuttle to Earth, they kill the entire crew. Batty kills his creator Tyrell with his bare hands, and even kills poor Sebastian, whose only crime was trusting Roy enough to bring him to Tyrell.
So does it matter than when Rick Deckard kills his beloved Pris and comes gunning for him, Batty chases him relentlessly, only to save his life? Does it matter that life become so precious to him in his final moments that he lets Deckard live? Does it matter that in those moments he delivers the famous “Tears in rain” monologue, which critic Mark Rowlands describes as “the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history”?
“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
You remember the Doomsday Machine, right? The deadly mechanical artifact left over from an ancient galactic war that destroys Commodore Matt Decker’s ship and crew, and leaves him a traumatized wreck until Captain Kirk and the Enterprise find him on the battered husk of the USS Constellation? “The Doomsday Machine” is one of the most beloved episodes of the original Trek, and it’s for a reason. Forget Khan Noonien Singh – the Doomsday Machine is the most dangerous opponent Kirk and crew ever faced, and no mistake.
Also, the machine gets serious points for originally of design. Most robots on this list have two arms and two legs, and use them for mischief. Not the Doomsday Machine. It’s a miles-long space cigar with a big glowy mouth, capable of gobbling planets for fuel and carving a path of destruction through the most densely populated section of our galaxy. It’s destroyed only through grit, quick thinking, and the kind of determination that Kirk and his crew are justly famous for.
Star Trek has a rich legacy of evil robot villains, from the indestructible Nomad of “The Changeling” to the V’Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But the Doomsday Machine towers above them all.
3. GLaDOS (Portal, 2007)
Valve’s brilliant Portal is the only game to make this list, and it’s purely on the strength of its magnificent villain GLaDOS, one of the most well-realized and sinister fictional robots ever created.
Portal has a fairly simple story. You wake up with no memories in the Aperture Science research facility, where the computer voice of GLaDOS guides you through a series of increasingly dangerous trials of something called the portal gun, a weapon that creates portals you can teleport through. The true nature of your surroundings and your circumstance gradually becomes clear as the tests progress. It’s a magnificent game, with a revolutionary play mechanic and a terrific sense of humor.
GLaDOS is one of the greatest villains in science fiction, of any kind. On top of using you to perfect her methods of killing, GLaDOS also totally cheats with her reward system. Since she’s a disembodied voice for virtually the entire game, it’s a challenge for her to find ways to really motivate you. One she abuses shamelessly is the promise of cake. Mmmm, delicious cake. You can almost taste it. But then you find desiccated corpses of earlier clone bodies, and ominous graffiti written in hidden locations: “THE CAKE IS A LIE.”
Could it be? Could the despicable GLaDOS, exterminator of all mankind, also be LYING ABOUT THE CAKE? Spoiler: yes.
Now don’t act all surprised. You knew the Terminator had to be on this list somewhere. Although the film The Terminator is 34 years old (yes, 34 years old – stop thinking about it), it remains the high-water mark for evil robot cinema.
Although the T-800 has been technologically surpassed by newer models, including the terrifying shape-changing T-1000 and the T-X, the sturdy T-800 has never really been supplanted in our hearts.
In fact, the Terminator movies – and I’ve kinda lost track of how many there have been by this point – are a treasure trove of evil robots. The grandpappy of them all of course is Skynet, the net-based superintelligence that brings Armageddon down on its creators, one of the greatest of all fictional artificial intelligences. I debated giving Skynet the place of honor on this list rather than the T-800. But Skynet is not played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Hmm, did I say The Terminator was the high-water mark for evil robot cinema? I meant, “except for The Matrix.”
The Matrix is a brilliant film, and a film like that needs a brilliant villain. It found it in Agent Smith, chillingly portrayed by Hugo Weaving.
Is Agent Smith a robot? I think so. He’s an artificial intelligence, that’s for sure. He shoots guns and you can punch him. Ergo, he’s a robot. Q.E.D.
Now that we got that out of the way, I submit that Agent Smith is the greatest evil robot ever created. All the other machines on this list are flawed in some way. Either they have sympathetic motivations, like Ava and Roy Batty, or they’re just following their programming, like Ash. Or they have a secret weakness, like the Doomsday Machine and GLaDOS.
Not Agent Smith. Despite that brief moment where he pulls out his earpiece and has some chummy one-on-one bonding time with Morpheus, we never come to sympathize with Smith. He is evil, supremely capable, and he has no weaknesses. And unlike other, lesser Agents, he absolutely will not give up. He is your nightmare, wrapped up in a superintelligent and indestructible package.
There you have it. All the abject lessons of 100 years of science fiction condensed down into a neat package. You’re welcome.
While we await the inevitable arrival of our robot overlords, I know you have lots of questions. Let me simplify it for you. There’s really only one that matters: When the robots come, will they look like WALL-E, or Agent Smith?
Movie: A Dog’s Way Home
When it comes out: January 11
What the book is about: A classic story of unwavering loyalty and incredible devotion. After Bella is picked up by Animal Control because pit bulls are banned in Denver, Lucas has no choice but to send her to a foster home until he can figure out what to do. But Bella, distraught at the separation, doesn’t plan to wait. With four hundred miles of dangerous Colorado wilderness between her and her person, Bella sets off on a seemingly impossible and completely unforgettable adventure home.
When it comes out: February 1
What the book is about: In Piercing, Murakami, in his own unique style, explores themes of child abuse and what happens to the voiceless among us, weaving a disturbing, spare tale of two people who find each other and then are forced into hurting each other deeply because of the haunting specter of their own abuse as children.
Movie: Alita: Battle Angel
When it comes out: February 14
What the book is about: Daisuke Ido, a talented cybernetic doctor, finds the head of a cyborg in a junk heap. When he rebuilds her body, Alita’s only clue to her past surfaces-her deadly fighting instincts! And now she is determined to find out the truth about who she once was…
Movie: The Turning
When it comes out: February 22
What the book is about: A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls. But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
Movie: The Rhythm Section
When it comes out: February 22
What the book is about: Stephanie Patrick’s world was destroyed by the Atlantic aircrash. Falling into a downward spiral of prostitution, drugs and drink, she is picked up by a journalist who has discovered that it was a bomb that caused the crash. And it is his murder that pulls her out of herself. The Rhythm Section is not a thriller about the hunt for a terrorist, although that is the path Stephanie takes, and it’s not a story about revenge, although justice for her family is her initial motivation. Rather, The Rhythm Section is the story of Stephanie’s attempt to reclaim herself.
For those that need a break from holiday merriment… in favor of grim, WWII drama.