Scott Tobias

Scott Tobias is the film editor of The A.V. Club, the arts and entertainment section of The Onion, where he's worked as a staff writer for over a decade. His reviews have also appeared in Time Out New York, City Pages, The Village Voice, The Nashville Scene, and The Hollywood Reporter. Along with other members of the A.V. Club staff, he co-authored the 2002 interview anthology The Tenacity Of the Cockroach and the new book Inventory, a collection of pop-culture lists.

Though Tobias received a formal education at the University Of Georgia and the University Of Miami, his film education was mostly extracurricular. As a child, he would draw pictures on strips of construction paper and run them through the slats on the saloon doors separating the dining room from the kitchen. As an undergraduate, he would rearrange his class schedule in order to spend long afternoons watching classic films on the 7th floor of the UGA library. He cut his teeth writing review for student newspapers (first review: a pan of the Burt Reynolds comedy Cop and a Half) and started freelancing for the A.V. Club in early 1999.

Tobias currently resides in Chicago, where he shares a too-small apartment with his wife, his daughter, two warring cats and the pug who agitates them.

Squeeze through the wormhole that is Jacob Gentry's indie sci-fi movie Synchronicity and nothing looks much different on the other side, just faint echoes of the past. In fact, the film could double as a metaphor for itself, a time machine constructed entirely of used components, with so little distance from its influences that it lacks its own utility.

"Country's got to figure this [expletive] out, Amahl," growls a CIA security contractor to his Libyan translator on his way out of town in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Michael Bay's account of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound. That's about the level of sophistication the film brings to the controversial incident, which cost the lives of four Americans and remains a touchstone for critics of the Obama administration.

Over 16 seasons and 368 episodes as prosecutor Jack McCoy on Law & Order, the workaday artistry of Sam Waterston was easy to take for granted, like the foundation to an especially durable piece of architecture. Such are the consequences of being part of "What's on?" for such a long stretch of his career. Yet in a different context, the same qualities Waterston brought to the role — that gentle (if occasionally righteous) vocal tone, a moral seriousness, a somewhat patrician East Coast air — can be better appreciated.

Depending on your perspective, Quentin Tarantino's career either comes full circle or spins its wheels with The Hateful Eight, a three-hour Western pastiche that combines the single-setting theatricality of his first feature, Reservoir Dogs, with the explosive Civil War politics of his last, Django Unchained.

The worst part of Michael Moore's landmark documentary Roger & Me is Roger and me, because it's an act of pure political theater. Donning what would become his signature working-class costume — rumpled button-down shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes, ballcap — Moore ambles into General Motors headquarters, requesting a meeting with CEO Roger Smith. He doesn't have an appointment. He never gets past the lobby. There's no reasonable expectation that he'll ever get close to his white whale, let alone interrogate him about plant closings in Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich.

Seafaring adventures like In the Heart of the Sea do not benefit from gravitas any more than a vessel benefits from extra weight in the cargo hold. They are about white squalls, rope burns, cracked hulls, torn sails, men overboard, malevolent sea creatures, and water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. They are about hearty sailors staving off mutiny and fighting for survival, relying on their wits and resorting to desperate measures if necessary. Pause for even a moment to ruminate on spiritual or existential crises and the great ship starts to list.

Answering one kind of madness with another, Spike Lee's Chi-Raq approaches the plague of gun violence in Chicago with a staggering disregard for propriety. Just the title alone — a reference to a fatality rate that's exceeded that of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan over the same period — was enough to raise the ire of the city's image-conscious elite, but that's merely a throat-clearing for the operatic fantasia to come.

After nabbing the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010—besting a pair of Cannes favorites in A Prophet and the Palme D'Or-winning The White Ribbon—the Argentinian thriller The Secret in Their Eyes enjoyed a hugely successful run in U.S. arthouses. For foreign language films, $1 million is generally considered the magic number for a serious hit; at over $6 million, this was a true blockbuster.

The Coopers have a gorgeous kitchen. And since it's Christmastime, those granite countertops are lined end to end with magazine-ready displays of food: fresh chocolate pastries, fluffy mashed potatoes, brilliant red tomatoes, a shimmering glazed ham with pineapple slices. The extended family gathers only once a year under the same roof and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), the matriarch, wants everything to be perfect. Even Rags, the family dog, has a festive red bow tied around its neck. This is all pretext for a holiday entertainment that feels more like a horror movie.

In movies, cancer tends to be more device than disease, a way of preserving a romance for the ages (e.g. Love Story, A Walk To Remember) or delivering people to a better place through the withering of a beatific martyr. There's a shred of the latter in Miss You Already, an affecting but ragged portrait of female friendship, but few movies have been so intent on showing cancer as the excruciating ordeal it is in real life.