Thursday, December 20, 2018

Reserved Seating: 2018 Year in Review

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who look back at themselves. It’s not narcissistic.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: I think it makes the most sense to start our year in review for 2018 by discussing the All Pacino series. First of all, I can’t believe we’re 1-⅓ years into this journey through Mr. Pacino’s filmography. Second, I think this series within Reserved Seating is now the flagship and has informed the rest of the articles. When we started Reserved Seating back in late 2016, you and I didn’t know each other that well, but we respected each other’s writing and thought we’d have a good dynamic reviewing together. In the earliest days, we started with a faux Siskel & Ebert style deliberately and I’m glad we got rid of that when we found our own voices writing together. We like each other more than Siskel & Ebert seemed to, so why pretend there’s a rivalry? After some initial navigating, we landed on doing an Al Pacino series and it’s helped me find more joy in movies and enhanced my appreciation of films and performances that maybe on the surface aren’t the things of awards. I’m a worse critic because of Al Pacino, but I’m a better lover of movies because of him and I prefer it that way.
Rob: I’m so proud of what we’ve done with the All Pacino series. Sitting down to write it always makes me think of that first long car ride we took together, the one where we developed Con-Chino and made each other laugh with these ridiculous scenarios involving Al Pacino wandering around the convention floor. We liked each other before that, as you said, but we hadn’t yet found that intangible “thing” that would make us such good friends, and I think that exploring our mutual love of Pacino was a crucial part of developing our chemistry and getting comfortable with each other. What’s funny is that we’re actually very different people, but we have so many intersecting pathways that our differences end up becoming strengths for our friendship. Pacino is one of those intersections.

Adam: This year we covered Sea of Love, Any Given Sunday, Author! Author!, Serpico, The Recruit, Insomnia (2002), The Godfather, Dick Tracy, City Hall, Dog Day Afternoon, and Heat in the All Pacino series. For me, my favorite Al performance of the bunch was in Dog Day Afternoon. Sea of Love and Serpico were new-to-me and both were really good (or great) and became instant favorites. Any Given Sunday, Dick Tracy, and Heat stayed about the same in my estimation. Insomnia (2002) was good, but not as much as I remembered it being and City Hall, Author! Author!, and especially The Recruit were good cheese and fun to write about despite their shortcomings. This was a solid year of All Pacino. What did you think of the year in Al and what else Reserved Seating was a highlight (or even lowlight -- we’ll get to those too) for you this year?
P.S. I also want to say how proud of you I am that you got into the OFCS, which was one of your goals. It’s very deserved. When I found out, I felt like Robert De Niro in Goodfellas when Joe Pesci was about to get made. So glad you didn’t whack another OFCS member leading to a problem at your induction ceremony.

Rob: Thanks, bud! I’m glad you didn’t have to destroy any pay phone booths. Writing and talking about movies with you always makes me better, whether it’s doing this column or just texting back and forth about nonsense, so I consider that whole thing to be a shared victory for both of us. You have a singularly brilliant way of articulating your reaction to a movie that I’ve admired since long before I actually met you. It cuts to the core of the issue while also allowing for imagination and emotion. But it’s always honest. Yours is one of my very favorite movie brains. This is getting sappy. Ah, who cares?

Anyway, our Any Given Sunday podcast with Patrick was definitely a highlight of the year, but I think my favorite columns were those on The Recruit and Sea of Love. They’re these awesomely weird-ass movies that perfectly illustrate everything we love most about Pacino and the choices he makes. They both opened up these little multiverses (#JoeyIsKing) in our imaginations that we continue to joke about to this day.

As for other highlights, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Little Italy, which to me is the Platonic ideal of a Reserved Seating movie. You sent me the trailer earlier in the year, and we were both so excited by its potential that we were planning our future writing schedule around its release months ahead of time. It ended up having everything we could have hoped for and more: A warm blanket story formula that embraces its cheese, an over-qualified cast that goes all-in on quirky and bizarre characters, and, perhaps most importantly, a completely earnest tone and style that genuinely aims to please the audience. I don’t love this movie because it’s “good bad” or “bad good.” Quality has nothing to do with it. I love it for its brazen ambition. This is a romantic comedy that sets its second-act meltdown at a combination pizza-making/male swimsuit contest and doesn’t bat an eye. It has dueling he said/she said opening Goodfellas narration! Remember Luigi? Remember how handsy that police officer got during that random marijuana bust? We love Little Italy so much that you got me the full-sized one sheet poster for my birthday. I finally have convention signatures to get!
Adam: Yeah, Little Italy is amazing. In the brief notes I wrote for this week’s column, I put Little Italy under the subheading “twin language” because it’s the type of movie we’ve gotten to the point of just shining at each other like Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran. You can just feel in the air that this was a movie made to be reviewed by Reserved Seating. The other movie I put in this category is Slamma Jamma, which honestly feels like it came out five years ago at this point. I don’t like faith based movies normally (unless it stars John Corbett or features dunking), but Slamma Jamma is so damn weird that it takes on a level of transcendence. When I hear about people doing transcendental meditation, I imagine they are trying to reach the level of clarity a viewer does watching Slamma Jamma. The movie is so odd that we didn’t even really make fun of it in our review. We just listed things that happened in the movie. I’m not usually seeking out movies for Reserved Seating, but when one of our canon is out in the world, it’s only a matter of time it comes home where it belongs. I’m honestly sad we didn’t review Gotti at some point. That feels like a miss on our part.

Rob: We could do a special retrospective on Gotti’s one-year anniversary. I will absolutely watch that again. Speaking of brazen! And I like what you said about our Slamma Jamma review just sort of presenting the movie to the audience without too much commentary. That movie doesn’t need it. There’s nothing enriching we could really add aside from guiding the people toward it, and I think our audience respects the fact that we know when to take a step back. “Look, we don’t know why that elderly woman is at a gun shop in the middle of the night, either. Let’s figure it out together!’

Another stand-out this year would be our baseball series, especially the week we covered A League of Their Own. Re-reading our column now, I’m enjoying how totally in love with that movie we are and (again, this is a theme) the way we approach it from different-but-interrelated perspectives. We cover a ton of ground, and from a technical standpoint, I think it’s one of our better reviews.

Adam: The baseball series has been interesting so far. I learned a few things along the way: a) A League of Their Own is 100% my favorite baseball movie, b) I only like one of the three Kevin Costner baseball movies (Field of Dreams), c) I should never re-watch Major League ever again and d) most baseball movies are not that good. Another series we covered was the Jaws franchise. I was stunned we both seemed to have more affection for Jaws: The Revenge than Jaws 2 even though the latter is certainly better than the former. Again, twin language. What did we disagree on this year? Eighth Grade is the only one I can think of right now. I’m more of a Slender Man guy myself.
Rob: I enjoyed watching Slender Man with you, but it’s not something I’d appreciate on my own. It’s no Wish Upon. I can’t think of too many other times we disagreed, although I seem to remember us differing on a few choices during our “underrated Spielberg” column. I also may have enjoyed Molly’s Game a bit more than you did, too, but that’s probably my Aaron Sorkin hard-on talking. Were they any columns this year you’d like to do over? Any regrets?

Adam: I wouldn’t say regrets, necessarily, but some of our general topic columns felt like fill-ins, which is understandable. That happens whether you’re writing solo or with another person sometimes. They are good for us catching up, but sometimes I’m like “Is anyone else enjoying this?” That might be too much information for our readers. I also wish I wasn’t so guarded in the review for Black Panther. I think it’s because we took some very minor heat on the Thor: Ragnarok review and that I was on my heels a bit. Over the course of the year, I felt more comfortable saying that I think Black Panther is just okay as a movie. I also found Scary Movie Month to be a bit forced (that’s my fault) because I wanted to focus on unseen horror movies from the ‘80s when the column we did just checking in with each other on Scary Movie Month was more fun and probably a better read. It was great because we could just talk about the dozens of movies we were watching in October without having to limit the conversation to just one movie.

Rob: I see your point there, but I still enjoyed doing all those columns. And really, trying new stuff and seeing how it plays out is the best way to continue to refine our approach, so I don’t have a problem if we have the occasional stumble or underwhelming result every now and again. I don’t want to speak for you, but I definitely look at Reserved Seating as something we do for us (sorry, everyone!) that people can enjoy or not enjoy at their convenience. I think being true to our pursuits and writing about what interests us makes the column more readable and engaging to everyone else, anyway. Anything you’re interested in covering next year, or any ideas you wanna float in front of those readers I just alienated?
Adam: Haha. I agree with you that nothing’s perfect and we’ll have duds every now and again because you don’t know what will work until you try it. Next year, I’m pretty open to whatever. I’m obviously excited for 12 more Pacino movies, and after that I’m digging the idea of not having a plan and following our interests. Non Reserved Seating related, do you have any movie resolutions for 2019? I want to keep following the New Beverly schedule for things that catch my interest (I’ve been having fun doing that this month) and I’m also planning on doing a week by week at home watch-along with 1999 movies to celebrate their 20 year anniversaries. I’ll write about some in the 20 Years Later series (the first being Varsity Blues), but a lot of that trip down memory lane will be just for me. I also want to watch a bunch of the movies Patrick mentioned on our last podcast. I watched one of the 42 on my list of unseen movies from his double bills so far. If I keep going one per week, I’ll be in good shape.

Rob: That episode is SO good. I can’t wait for you guys to do that again. As for me, I would ideally like to get back to that Pure Cinema Podcast season one syllabus I made for myself earlier this year. I got about ten or twelve movies into it during #Junesploitation and then fell off track. The document is still sitting on my desktop, leering at me. I’d like to get back to Redboxing, too. Screener season has taken its toll on that one. I’m also excited to start another year of Weird on Top with Ale. That column is going really well, and we’re going cover some Twin Peaks and short film stuff after we finish Lynch’s full-length offerings. If my calculations are correct, that’ll be pretty early in 2019. And, of course, All Pacino. Always All Pacino. One of my film students is obsessed with Scarface (there’s always one or two every year), and I was thinking today about what it’ll be like to revisit that one. I guess we’ll see!

Adam: David Lynch’s short "The Alphabet" scares me more than almost any horror movie. What are we writing about next week? Also, before I forget, Happy Holidays to Lisa Wilcox, Billy Zane and Justin Long! Don’t forget to remind me to give you that Joey Lauren Adams poster when you come back to town next time.

Rob: Signed by JLA! Didn’t I tell you all he was the best? Next time, we’ll close out 2018 with another one of those “What IS this trailer?” movies: Bruce Willis’ Air Strike. Adrien Brody also stars. Hopefully. He’s on the poster, at least. Until next time…

Adam: These seats are reserved.


  1. I read this site basically every day but I almost never weigh in on anything (I'm a taker not a giver?) but just wanted to say the Rob + Adam tandem is some of my favourite reading on these here interwebs. Thanks to you both for a great 2018. Peace. Out.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Reuben! Have a great holiday season.

  2. It's always a pleasure to read pieces from you both! Thanks for another year's worth of entertainment and insight! :)

  3. Adam, may I ask you a question? I know you are indeed a big Gotti fan BUT I was wondering what you're thoughts are on on the other Travolta joint that dropped soon after: "Speed Kills"? :) Keep up the excellent work gents!

    1. I'll talk about it on the holiday show. It's not as good as Gotti.

    2. I certainly look forward to the holiday show, you guys always deliver the goods or should I say gifts, it is that time of year after all!