Definition: The Weekender, baked by Byen Bakeri in Seattle, just down the street from my office, is a gigantic coffee-cake-like pastry enhanced with maple frosting and then topped with a pile of bacon. I will not admit to you how many of these I have eaten — the whole thing, all by myself. They are gratuitous. They are delicious. They contain things that are good for you, and a whole lot of Unnecessary as well. They are extravagant.

And that is why I’m naming my new Looking Closer weekend series after this glorious monstrosity.

Source — Yelp

If I’m good at anything, it’s this: I get inspired by new ideas, I launch them into the world, and then I realize that they’re unsustainable. Any amateur’s archaeological dig into the archives of will find plenty of ideas — weekly series, topic-focused columns, and more — that started strong and then fizzled.

I make no apologizes. Life comes at you fast, as they say, and changes in context and circumstances require changes in routines. I adjust.

And hey — I produce this website without charging you a penny, so really, you’re getting what you pay for, right?

But today is December 18. Christmas and New Year’s Day are on the way! So I’m feeling that familiar Resolution Rush: adrenaline and inspiration.

So here’s a new kind of post that I would love to carry as far into 2022 as possible. And if it sticks, I’ll keep it going for as long as it makes sense.

The Weekender will be a Surprise Box, an unpredictable newsletter, a bulletin board of things I’d like to share that I would have expanded into full, individual posts if life had afforded me the time.

So, here we go: a list of notes and links and surprises that I want to share with you and I want to commit to the record for future reference. If I ever lose my memory — and considering my age and the stress levels that qualify as “normal” for me — I may find such a record useful.

So, Shes, Hes, and Thems, it is with pleasure that I give you this awkward, experimental First Edition of THE WEEKENDER.

Steven Greydanus calls it quits — sort of.

End of an era!

Steven D. Greydanus of is my favorite film critic and the most insightful Catholic mind I’ve found in film criticism. I’ll go on reading him religiously at Decent Films and using his great work to teach writing students in my classes. Steven was one of the first people I met online in the late ‘90s who became a close friend. I’m so grateful for him and for all the ways he has enlightened me and blessed me.

This week, SDG departed his influential post at The National Catholic Register. For a fleeting moment, I was worried that he was moving on from film criticism altogether. What a foolish thought. No, of course not — Steven is not finished with his rigorous work; he has not lost his passion; and he is not ready to sail off to the Greydanus Havens. (That’s a joke I know he’ll get.) Steven Greydanus loves movies, loves moviegoers, and loves the Maker whose creativity is the source of all artistic inspiration. He writes with love, for the sake of love, and in a way that inspires his readers’ love. I can’t imagine him ever losing that fire.

So, join me in making more frequent visits to to see what he thinks of the movies of 2021, and what he will think of all the films he sees in the new year. And I fully expect to see him showing up, published and making a difference, in new contexts soon.

I voted.

Year-end film lists are, in many ways, a ridiculous game. None of these 187 participating film critics — myself included — have had enough time with the films of 2021 to make meaningful assessments of which films are “the best.” In the past, the folly of such endeavors has often kept me from participating.

So, why did I participate as a voter in Indiewire’s Best of 2021?

Here’s link to a “Best of 2021” list voted on by almost 200 critics, including me.

Because I love a few of these films and I thought my vote just might help a few more readers think about prioritizing them. But do I accept the phrasing of “Best Movies of 2021”? No — not even close. And besides, ask me in a week or two, and I will probably have changed my mind about how I’d vote.
Anyway, here’s how the largely meaningless votes from 187 film critics added up. The results make me say, “Huh. Okay. I admire some of the movies on this list. There are even a few that I love.”

The right critic for the right movie: West Side Story

And speaking of outstanding Catholic film critics, here’s another one. Evan Cogswell is a man who knows his musicals.

I recently interviewed him for the Looking Closer podcast — oh, did you miss the fact that that is a real thing? — about the new Leo Carax musical Annette. But I’ve been even more eager to hear his thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s first musical: West Side Story.

Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort in West Side Story. Image from the 20th Century Studios trailer.

Frankly, I’ve felt the influence of musicals on Spielberg’s work since Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘s score (by John Williams, of course) proved to be as essential to its power as its exquisite, enchanting cinematography.

And if you watch the original film version of West Side Story, you may realize that some of those moments have been recreated in other Spielberg films — even Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Watch for the moment in Raiders when Marion, being pursued by a local thug, dashes through a shadowy doorway and disappears, and her pursuer, leaping through that same door, comes flying back out, having received the full impact of a frying pan to the skull. When I first watched the 1961 West Side Story, I laughed out loud when I recognized what must have given Spielberg the idea for that slapstick flourish.)

Anyway, here’s Evan Cogswell on why he loves the new West Side Story.

How to add the best animated feature of 2020 to your home video library

Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers deserved the Oscar for Best Animated Feature last year. (That’s my opinion, anyway.)

But the Academy has a troubling affliction: They just automatically give that award to Disney, except in rare cases when movies by other animation studios achieve massive box office success. (See Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Which did, I admit, deserve it.)

Watch Wolfwalkers and tell me it’s not one of the most gorgeous animated movies ever made.

You probably already know that.

And, like me, you’ve probably been wondering how to add Wolfwalkers to your home video library. It’s been streaming on AppleTV+ for a while now, but what about those of us who still value a physical copy, something you can hold in your hand, something loaded with extras?

Our wishes have been granted… just in time for Christmas.

Read all about it here.