9 Reviews of 9 Movies in 9 Theaters: Intro and Oscar Rundown

So I had this idea, right? Houston has a lot of movie theaters, and there are a lot of movies. In fact, there are a lot of movies nominated for best picture at this year’s academy awards (possibly too many, since the academy expanded the number from 5 to 10 in 2010). This year there are 9, and I figured “what if I went and saw each one in a different unique Houston movie theater, reviewing not only the movie, but the experience the the theater provides?”

I hit some theaters I consider awesome and you’ve no doubt heard about & been to, I hit theaters I’d never heard of before that were really cool and different, and I hit regular old theaters like the trusty AMC Gulf Pointe 30, the seminal theater at which I saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace some 20 years ago, 100% decked out in a Darth Vader costume I’d worn at halloween the previous year. I even watched the first 10 minutes of the movie with the helmet on before realizing it was a) way too hot, b) I couldn’t see anything, and c) I was probably slowly choking to death. I abandoned the helmet and watched the rest of the movie in an uncomfortable, cheap leotard and cape set. I haven’t dressed up for a movie since then and I have no plans to ever again, but somehow that story says a lot about me. I’m still that same movie fanboy deep down.


This isn’t me but it is a pretty accurate approximation

Those reviews I’ll be publishing these next couple of weeks, two-pronged reviews reviewing (in my own way), both the best picture nominated film and the Houston-area theater experience of the viewing. The first one will be Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” which I saw at that iconic (to me growing up south of the city at least) AMC Gulf Pointe 30. It was an incredible theater-going experience, and I can’t wait to talk about why.

That brings us to tonight’s oscar ceremony. There are too many movies nominated for best picture. I’ve seen them all. Are there some good movies on the list that could voice deserved gripes if they didn’t make the cut? Absolutely. But isn’t that what award shows are about? Separating the great from the good? Dwindling the field down to the smallest possible number and choosing that one crown jewel from a small, potent range of masterpieces? Or am I an idealist and it’s really just a self-congratulatory hollywood wankfest that requires a lot of politicking to even get nominated? Is it really just an excuse for celebrities to get together to be seen looking good, jockeying for career-position, seeking that all important asterisk next to their name on the back of a blu-ray cover (*best actor)?

Probably, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’s without integrity. Art is inherently subjective, so it’s important to remember that opinion is not fact, regardless of whether that opinion comes from the majority of the voting body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences or your snooty art-teacher uncle who uses Italian words when he talks about film. But the awards are interesting, and it’s worth lies in honoring great movies, the movies people haven’t seen usually. The big blockbusters get their award in dollar amounts, and the oscars are to honor the movies you might not have seen that have cultural worth. The problem with the oscars is that they aren’t just a subjective awards show. The awards show is just that, a show, also a television program mean to make you say “wow look at John Travolta” or “boy oh boy Natalie Portman looks elegant as ever.”

The oscars in particular are engaged in a tug-of-war between what it is and what it wants to be. It’s in an eternal battle with its soul to both be television spectacle, one that year after year is a dependable ratings juggernaut, and an impartial awards show meant to be about the art. The in-memoriam section and the description of the films duke it out with the jokey-musical moments, the Ellen Degeneres selfies, the schtick-laden James Franco/Anne Hathaway banter moments, the proverbial show within the ceremony.


The Grammys has big musical acts and moments, the MTV music video awards have shocking, line-crossing spectacle. What does the oscars have? Good speeches? Sometimes someone bombs like Letterman ? The occasional “that was funny” moment? Honestly the best you can hope for is Sally Field making a scene or Adrian Brody kissing Halle Berry after winning for the Pianist. Maybe some old dude like Scorsese will finally win and that will be tight (minus the intro, feat Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas ,and Steven Spielberg doing a hammily written comedy bit where George Lucas, the man who found Jar Jar Binks hilarious, has to carry the comedic weight. It is truly incredibly horrible, I recommend it just for that). But this tug of war between wanting to pay tribute to the establishment and wanting to appeal to viewers, especially the coveted approval of young people, makes the oscars too long and insufferable to enjoy.

I hope a few things tonight. I hope “Moonlight” gets recognized as much as possible. It deserves it. Same goes for Hidden Figures, it was excellent. I hope (and believe) Jimmy Kimmel will do a good job, I hope it’s not too political to make people freak out and I hope it’s political enough to not make people freak out about the lack of political stances and rhetoric (I find the prospects of achieving both of these quite improbable), I hope it’s not “La-La Land” after “La La Land” after “La La Land,” even though it probably will be, I hope somebody streaks again even though that will never ever happen again.


But mostly I hope it gives good movies a boost, which it generally does. Below are my picks for Hollywood’s biggest night(copyright/trademark/patent).


Nominees: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight”

Winner: “La La Land”


Winner: Damien Chazelle

And Barry Jenkins, director of “Moonlight,” will have every reason to be upset.

Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

Damien Chapelle and Emma Stone on the set of “La La Land”


Winner: Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Calling an upset here. Denzel wins because he directed and produced “Fences” as well, a great film. I think those added credits pile up and equal an acting win for Denzel here, upsetting favorite Casey Affleck.



Winner: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”


Natalie Portman in “Jackie”


Winner: Viola Davis, “Fences”


Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in “Fences”


Winner: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”


Nominees: “Arrival,” La La Land,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Silence”

Winner: “Lion”

“La La” is again the favorite here but I’m predicting an upset and a chance to honor “Lion” which, save a Patel upset in best supporting actor, won’t be winning much.


Nominees: “Hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “The Lobster,” “Manchester By The Sea,” “20th Century Women”

Winner: “Manchester by the Sea”

Great screenplay, somber and all that dramatic stuff, and the academy sometimes gives screenplay to a film that isn’t going to get a lot of love elsewhere but is well-written. I think Affleck loses best actor, so this is Manchester’s moment in the sun amidst the “La” domination.


Nominees: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lions,” “Moonlight”

Winner: “Moonlight”


Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in “Moonlight”


Winner: “The Jungle Book”


Winner: “La La Land”


Winner: “La La Land”


Winner: “Ennemis Intérieurs”


Winner: “Piper”


Winner: “Arrival”




Winner: City of Stars (“La La Land”)



Winner: “La La Land”


Winner: Star Trek Beyond


Winner: “The Salesman”


“The Salesman”


Winner: “La La Land”


Winner: The White Helmets


Winner: “OJ: Made in America”


Winner: “Jackie”


Winner: “Zootopia




SICK SAD WORLD #2: “Depressed Conference”


In which we sigh, a lot, enter the presidential press conference bizarro world, call Steve Bannon a fat nazi, denounce the unibomber while pointing out some of his writing is interesting, wonder how much blow is being done in the west wing, repeat ourselves a few times, watch the executive branch and intelligence community celebrity death match, and shed light on this dark (SAD!) time in American politics.




In this first ever episode of Sick Sad World, Conrad and Michael talk Donald Trump, the first amendment, the lack of civil discourse in america, search for safe spaces in their hearts, do old-timey radio voice impressions, make several mistakes, errors, and faux pas, sound simultaneously well-informed and uninformed, debate the merits of punching nazis, and try to save the world.

Sick Sad World is a political podcast from Conrad Schafman and Michael Retherford, two dudes in their mid-twenties with nothing better to do than sit around, drink beer (or la croix), and try to figure out what the hell is wrong with America.

EDITORIAL: The NFL Doesn’t Care About the Transgender Community

You may have noticed that the NFL has taken over Houston. Over a hundred-million people are expected to watch Super Bowl 51 around the world today, either for the game, the high-dollar commercials, or just to see what madness Lady Gaga brings to the halftime show. Since the game is being played in our very own NRG stadium, the world will be watching Houston closely, too.

Over the course of this week celebrities from every platform have made their way here, from famous athletes like Dak Prescott, to pop stars such as Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, and even celebrities such as, you guessed it, America’s least-relevant former sitcom star, David Schwimmer. If Ross from ‘Friends’ is being invoked in the name of publicity, surely everyone and anyone is welcome to join in the festivities, right?


Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For those with longer memories than the average news cycle, you’ll remember that Houston and, by extension, the NFL, doesn’t care about the transgender community. In 2015, Houston voters elected (in overwhelmingly majority) to repeal a bill that guaranteed protections for individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender-identity. The law, called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance or HERO (unofficially renamed “the bathroom bill” by the conservative think tanks who took it down), was wrongfully mischaracterized as allowing sexually deviant men into women’s bathrooms, thereby putting women at risk of being violated. It was a perfect piece of propaganda from republicans aimed at scaring their voter base into showing up at the polls and overturning it.

Since then, the fear-mongering playbook that worked so well in Houston has been picked up by conservative legislations around the country, in places like North Carolina for example. The only difference is that North Carolina actually passed a law saying that people HAVE to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate. Instead of repealing a law that ensured civil rights like Houston did, they passed one ensuring that discrimination would take place.

This difference is also important because North Carolina’s birth certificate stipulation incurred massive backlash. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert there, the NCAA and ACC cancelled college basketball championships there, and, by many reports, the bill even cost North Carolina’s incumbent GOP governor his job. Celebrities up and down social media decided to use North Carolina as a post for some politically-charged target practice. The bill’s discriminatory denouncement of transsexuals in particular set in motion sweeping changes in the state and local governments. Something good came out of it.

LGBT Rights

So far, that is not the case here in Houston. After HERO failed to pass, new mayor Sylvester Turner vowed on the campaign trail to revisit the bill if he won the mayoral election. But so far, in his first full year in office, efforts to revisit HERO haven’t materialized. In fact momentum is swinging the other way, this time at the state level. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, ever the villain of minorities, has introduced his own “bathroom bill” that would seek to enforce many of the same rules seen in the North Carolina version (allowing business owners to enforce their own bathroom policies based on their political views). If it passes Texas would likely lose concerts, business investments, and tourist dollars. But, to those who fear and demonize everything LGBT, that’s a small price to pay for an ideological victory.

Lost in all this is the fact that the NFL doesn’t care about the transgender community. It faced very little criticism of its decision to keep the game in Houston, but said that it will “work closely with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to make sure all fans feel welcomed at our events.”


But this is the organization that denied and actively covered up evidence that football causes CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative disease found in the brains of those who sustain repetitive blows to the head. This is the organization that allegedly had video evidence of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s horrific knockout punch to his fiancé’s head and only suspended him 4 games before the tape went public and forced Commissioner Roger Goodell to up the punishment to a full season. And it’s the same organization that gives only $11.25 out of every $100 sold of their pink merchandise collection (raising awareness for breast cancer, a shameless attempt to court female fans) to the American Cancer Society.

That’s a lot of misinformation, and there’s no reason to believe the NFL’s shallow words about protecting the LGBTQ community either. While the NFL reportedly told Georgia that passing a similar bill would cost them consideration in future super bowls, keeping the super bowl in Houston (due to logistical and time restraints) remains a glaring example of how big, conglomerate organizations deem something like equal rights subpar to their bottom lines. The NFL doesn’t care about anything except making money for the (97% white male) billionaire team-owners that profit off our nation’s obsession with violence and machismo.

Pulling the event out of Houston would’ve sent a clear message to local and state governments that discriminatory practices like the political assassination of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance are bad for businesses and will not be tolerated by the silent majority who don’t favor radical religious and political fascism that targets civil rights. But the NFL remained silent and got away with it.


So what can you do? I don’t know. Boycotting the super bowl probably won’t have much of an impact. It’ll still get massive ratings no matter what the readers of this website do. Protests are planned downtown today in opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban, and you can certainly go and make your voice heard, but the game will take place (reportedly with vice-president Mike Pence in attendance) and everything will generally go according to plan.

In fact, I’m sure I’ll end up watching the game, because I inherently like football. I’ll watch the game and, for a few hours, I won’t think about the bad stuff. But then it will end and I’ll remember. I’ll remember that the NFL’s ratings are down from last year, and I’ll think about how ratings for other sports like soccer are going up, and I’ll smile.

I’ll keep protesting, calling my representatives and senators at the state and city levels, stay involved in local politics, and keep fighting for an America that gives civil liberties to all, one that disavows discrimination, fear, and hate. I’ll make my voice heard where the NFL stayed silent, I’ll take a stand in the name of what’s right where Roger Goodell and the NFL shrunk meekly, and I’ll hold the NFL accountable for doing the right thing in the future. And I’ll never forget the transgender people who struggle (and have died from hate crimes) in this city and across the nation, and I’ll keep fighting for them. I’ll never forget that the rich white men who own professional football teams could’ve taken a stand for those victims and all the minorities of Houston, and I’ll never forget that they didn’t.