Best Film Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.


This Is a Movie Review: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, and Jane Curtin Bring the Literary Forgery Biopic ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ to Deliciously Caustic Life

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CREDIT: Mary Cybulski/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Ben Falcone

Director: Marielle Heller

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Naughty, Foul-Mouthed Witticisms

Release Date: October 19, 2018 (Limited)

I would like to begin my review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? by first saying how happy I am to see Jane Curtin on screen in a role worthy of her talents. Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are going to get the most praise out of this cast, and rightly so, as they play the two main characters with wonderfully caustic aplomb, but I want to make sure that Ms. Curtin does not get lost in the mix. Whenever I see her in old SNL clips, I wonder how she is not still one of the biggest comedy superstars around (at least she still is in my heart). Sure, few folks have ever maintained such a status into their seventies, but Curtin remains spry and clearly capable of throwing out some deadly zingers. And as Marjorie, the (understandably) impatient literary agent of an unruly client, she is doing exactly what any Jane Curtin fan wants to see.

That client is Lee Israel, who achieved a bit of success in the ’70s and ’80s with biographies of the likes of actress Tallulah Bankhead and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen. She is now struggling to pay her bills, partly because she insists on only writing about people who were popular decades ago and partly because she is too antisocial to hold down any regular job or maintain any human relationship. So she turns to penning letters that she passes off as the work of famous writers like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward, selling the forgeries to collectors who are willing to play top dollar. Melissa McCarthy may not seem like the obvious choice to play Lee, though her aggressive comedy chops certainly lend themselves well to cynical wit-slinging. McCarthy actually benefits immensely from being able to underplay a bit. Lee is just as unapologetic as McCarthy’s normal stable of characters, so in a way Lee is actually right in her wheelhouse, but with fewer temptations to go more over-the-top than is bearable.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a bit of a two-hander, with a significant chunk of the runtime consisting of the shenanigans between Lee and her drinking buddy/partner-in-crime Jack Hock (Grant), a bon vivant in similarly dire financial straits. I know Grant primarily as the villainous puppetmaster Dr. Zander Rice in last year’s Logan, but fans of his breakthrough performance in Withnail and I will likely find plenty to recognize and love here. And those unfamiliar with Withnail should be happy to discover his infectious comedy chops. Lee and Jack are a salty-and-tart odd couple; they’re both gay, but also somehow kindred spirits. Their friendship fuels each of them to find a purpose in life, although their relationship is a bit volatile, as much of it is built around a criminal enterprise. Can You Ever Forgive Me? Resembles redemption narrative, but not quite. Instead, it is a story of self-actualization that manages to have as much of a naughty good time as it can.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Recommended If You Like: Withnail and I, All About Eve, Sideways

Grade: 4 out of 5 Forgeries


This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Happytime Murders’ Combines Noir Mystery with Wonderfully Inventive Crude Puppet Gags

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CREDIT: Hopper Stone/STXfilms

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2018.

Starring: Bill Barretta, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker, Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale

Director: Brian Henson

Running Time: 91 Minutes

Rating: R for Raucous Puppet Sex, Loopy Puppet Drug Use, Constant Puppet and Human Profanity, and a Description of an Unspeakable Act Involving Rice Pilaf

Release Date: August 24, 2018

The advertising for The Happytime Murders has made a big deal about how out of the ordinary its existence is: puppets that are usually family-friendly about to get no-holds-barred dirty to an unprecedented degree! But the movie itself, with a typical noir-style murder mystery premise, is fairly unassuming. It’s not particularly hard-bitten, just accepting of the fact that certain and lewd and violent acts are known to happen in this world. It’s as if puppet-noir were a well-established cinematic genre, as Happytime Murders does not feel the need to explain itself, at least no more so than any other movie.

It is not as if audiences should be wholly unfamiliar with what director Brian Henson and company are trying to pull off, as Happytime has a great deal in common with a certain 1988 film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Both feature a human and a non-human partnering up to solve a series of murders that the non-human has been framed for, in a Los Angeles in which the human population lives uneasily alongside their neighbors from another medium. Both are more adult in their storytelling than the average Disney or Muppet concoction, but while Roger Rabbit is safe for most ages, Happytime decidedly is not. And while the latter can be enjoyed simply as a story of a cynical puppet private investigator trying to clear his name, the main reason to see it is why the kids cannot come.

The jokes about the anatomy, sexual predilections, and drug habits of puppets do not have the tenor of “Look how disgusting we can be!” Instead, they are the sort of clever, fully committed gags that examine a previously unexamined premise and then take the consequences to their most absurd conclusions. The climaxes are both explosive and filled with a deep well of laser-deployed knowledge. As P.I. Phil Philips, Bill Barretta (the current performer of Muppets like Swedish Chef and Pepe) gives about as much depth as possible to a puppet character. His crackling banter with Melissa McCarthy is filled with a loopy zest that can only come from looking at an askew world and keeping a straight face. Every cast member realizes something important, and it is why Happytime works as well as it does: this is all very silly, but we must commit to everything like the joy of the world depends on it.

The Happytime Murders is Recommended If You Like: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A femme fatale walking into a P.I. office, The Muppets, Spy, The Heat

Grade: 3.75 out of 5 Puppet Carpets Matching the Drapes

SNL Review May 12, 2018: Amy Schumer/Kacey Musgraves

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

A Mother’s Day Message From the Cast of SNL – B-

Amy Schumer’s Monologue – B-

Mother Knows Best – B-

Handmaids in the City – C+

The Day You Were Born – C-

Gospel Brunch – C-

Kacey Musgraves performs “High Horse” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Bailey Gismert – B-
Michael Che’s Stepmom – C+

Wake Up Denver – B+

Kacey Musgraves performs “Slow Burn” – B-

Last Call – B-

James Madison High School Graduation (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

SNL Review May 13, 2017: Melissa McCarthy/HAIM

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Love It
Lighthouse Features Logo – Endings are notoriously difficult in sketch comedy, so I have got to hand it to SNL when it comes up with a great closer, especially when it is the last sketch of the night, sending the whole show out on a high. The powerful conclusion in this case involves simply revisiting the stated premise at the beginning and putting a button on it to explain the protagonist’s incompetence. In between is a series of disturbing and multi-layered micro short films.

Mother’s Day seems like the ideal time for SNL to come up with fake technological products that cater to the older generation – add the ever-patient Amazon Echo Silver to that heap…When it comes to Women in Film, Kate McKinnon’s Debette Goldry (this time joined by Melissa McCarthy’s Gaye Fontaine) is only as strong as her stories, and this time she has killer ones, like removing her molars to maker her face less Polish and being married to a Nazi…Now for the continuing romantic saga of Kyle & Leslie, in which we learn that Lorne (not little Lorne) is okay with Colin being shot, because he can be annoying…The birthday party sketch ends perhaps a bit too abruptly when Melissa Villaseñor discovers her Mom Animal, but the satire of the cult of motherhood is equal parts disturbing and enticing.


SNL Recap February 13, 2016: Melissa McCarthy/Kanye West

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SNL: Kanye West, Melissa McCarthy, Taran Killam (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in February 2016.

Melissa McCarthy is one of the most reliable “SNL” hosts of this decade. She always brings her A-game, making herself right at home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. She has her critics who call her out for playing the same character over and over: brash, over-the-top, and painfully awkward. That can be a problem with a film career (though she usually brings more depth than her critics give her credit for), but in sketch comedy, it can easily be a winning formula. Frequent musical guest Kanye West is also reliable, but his is a reliable unreliability, in which the stage design and sound style will never be the same twice.

I Can’t Make You Love Me – Instead of the umpteenth debate sketch, the leadoff political sketch finds its angle via the electorate. Its take on what appeals to voters about Bernie over Hillary is a little shallow, but that is a small blemish, as that patter is just setup for the main thrust of the sketch: Hillary’s take on Bonnie Raitt. This is Kate McKinnon pulling off the same note of desperation she’s been hitting, but this time she is really complicating the question of whether or not Mrs. Clinton is cool. She tries so hard, which is cool because of the commitment but not cool because of the strain. There is some reference to how support of Hillary or lack thereof affects feminism, but this sketch is more astute about the much less complicated issue of whether or not Hillary is cooler than the drab, depressing Jeb Bush. B


SNL Recap February 1, 2014: Melissa McCarthy/Imagine Dragons

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Melissa McCarthy SNL 2-1-14 Big


Super Bowl Halftime
Last year’s Super Bowl halftime sketch was amusing, but that came after the actual Super Bowl, so by default, it wasn’t too imaginative.  So it was nice to see SNL imagining an unusual scenario ahead of time this year.  They could have gone for stereotypical broad theater geek gags here, and they did, but only a little.  This felt like a Broadway production from Broadway people who actually were able to get the Super Bowl facts straight.  Plus the singing and dancing was awesome in and of itself.  Aidy popping in just to say “Oh my!” was delicious. B+

Melissa McCarthy’s Monologue
This was absolutely an unusual monologue, and it was performed with supreme confidence.  The pre-taped flashback was quite a whirlwind.  The fight itself wasn’t all that much, but it was certainly well-directed. B


SNL Recap April 6, 2013: Melissa McCarthy/Phoenix

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You know what I’m writing off this year? The next generation.

Cold Opening – Kim Jong-Un
I laughed the most when he said “Wichita State.”  Everything about Dennis Rodman screamed that he had just walked out of a time warp. B

Melissa McCarthy’s Monologue
This – THIS – is the sort of the offbeat, but so perfect, concept every monologue should aspire to. B+


SNL Recap October 1, 2011: Melissa McCarthy/Lady Antebellum

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Cold Opening – The Lawrence Welk Show
Lawrence Welk Show sketches have held up remarkably well considering that the only thing different about them is a new person’s reaction to Dooneese.  So the logical next idea was to have another weird sister.  Melissa’s buck teeth (and other beaver-esque qualities) were sort of amusing, but they also made it difficult to understand anything that she was saying.  The most notably unique aspect of this sketch was actually Lawrence himself, who was more animated than usual, as his comments showed a greater awareness of what was going on. B

Melissa McCarthy’s Monologue
This monologue went on forever – not in the sense of, “this is so boring, please kill me now,” but rather, in the What Up With That sense of “I can’t believe this is happening … I can’t believe this is still happening.”  Post-Bridesmaids, the Melissa McCarthy-Kristen Wiig partnership felt quite natural. B

Lil’ Poundcake
The shockingly sensible shock value of the revelation of Lil’ Poundcake as an HPV vaccine was sufficiently shocking.  But then not much else happened. B