28. Star Trek Beyond

This is about me: I loved Star Trek Beyond because I was a nerdy kid; because Idris Elba is in it; and because snowboarding to certain fast, loud songs is more fun than anything else.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was my favorite thing for about three childhood years. I’ve seen lots of the original series, all of Deep Space Nine, and about a third of Voyager. (None of Enterprise, where Scott Bakula plays the captain. My parents liked it.)

If you ever loved a Star Trek show, you see the movies. I saw Beyond in the theater 50 years to the day after the original series premiered on CBS. Many websites made a hullabaloo over the anniversary, spurring my nostalgia.

Elba! Again, personal bias, but his Stringer Bell on The Wire was the best. I’ll name a dog Stringer one day. Stringer was big and mean and smart. Krall is slow and hunched over, so Elba doesn’t quite wear the crazy alien makeup in Beyond like I’d hoped – like Russell Crowe wears his armor in Gladiator – but he is compelling – angry and powerful, changing slowly in appearance from a monster to a man.

And then there’s the Beastie Boys. The scenario is this: Captain Kirk’s ship (not the Enterprise, which was destroyed) must blast analog music while flying into a fleet of zipping bad-guy ships to scramble their signal. They choose Sabotage. Spock calls it “classical.” I snowboard to that song, carving turns like the ship to the same booming cues. It’s so much fun.

The whole movie is so much fun. The Enterprise blows apart and the crew is marooned in unexpected pairs. Uhura and Sulu team up. Kirk and Chekov. Bones and Spock’s personality clash makes for great chemistry. The duos have wildly different adventures until coming back together in a clever action scene full of fighting, shooting, and old-school motorcycle stunts.

My response to this movie is emotional; it hits the right notes for me personally. Would I love it if I weren’t biased? I don’t even care. LISTEN ALL OF Y’ALL IT’S A SABOTAAAAAAAGE!!!!!

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27. No Country For Old Men

Acts of kindness are wasted in Cormac McCarthy World. Llewelyn Moss mighta got away with $2 million cash if his conscience hadnt dragged him back to the desert with water for a dying man.

Instead of helping the doomed stranger Moss becomes known by Mexican drug dealers as the man with their satchel. They chase and shoot him and sick a devil dog on his trail. Moss kills the dog but theres worse behind it. Anton Chigurh. Merciless hunter and deaths indifference personified.

The shock of reading Cormac McCarthys novel is how few words he needs. His minimalism. Whole scenes are mostly dialogue with very brief description. No commas. He gifts visceral specificity. Gun mechanics. Bits of fabric Moss and Chigurh dig from buckshot skin holes after shotgun dueling. Pain of recovery. Wire hangers stretched and clipped to stash the money satchel in one scene and blow up a car in another.

“If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” Cormac McCarthy World also demands contemplation of death. Chigurh flips a coin. Says Call it. Every choice was a step here and the coin took a path here too and its heads or tails. You stand to win everything.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the book asks a prosecutor if he knows what Mammon is. The prosecutor doesnt. I looked it up. Mammon is wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion. Money as the devil. Moss finds money and keeps it and death follows. McCarthys screenplay for The Counselor tells a similar story where the decision to chase dollars brings death. The Coen Brothers masterpiece Fargo is about money bringing death.

The novel arrived in 2005. The movie in 2007. It was obvious how well it would translate to screen. Probably just as obvious who should direct. The Coens spun Oscar gold. Every actor is perfect.

A predator hunts deluded prey across siltstone and through border towns. Fear the killer who understands fate. His inevitable deadish eyes. These storytellers understand the dramatic potential in a bag of cash.

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