Back in the Blogging Saddle: What’d I Miss?

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I’m almost as happy to get back to writing as Therese was when she met Carol *sigh*

I’m back, and boy does that make me happy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make time for the things you love, especially in moments of intense transition. The last nine months (it really hasn’t felt that long!) have seen me working my first 9-5 job, adjusting to a new city, singing in and volunteering with the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, donning drag for the first time, and making countless friends along the way.

There have also been plenty of movies. I’ve devoted more time, in fact, to good old-fashioned cinema-going in Philadelphia than I had in previous years, thanks in part to cheaper ticket prices (I’m still milking my NYU student ID card for all its worth) and in part to Cinema Salon, a wonderful film discussion group I’ve joined here.

So, what have I seen? What’d I think of the Oscars? Did the right queen win season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race? These are the important questions in life, no? Let’s play catch-up. Continue reading

Fresh-Squeezed Industry: Telluride, Venice Screen Early Oscar Frontrunners, New 007 Theme Song Announced, Sequels Galore

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Greetings, readers! In this, our newest column, I’ll be discussing the latest, juiciest industry announcements: trailer releases, breaking festival coverage, and maybe even some gossip rag shtuff if it’s reliable and/or incredibly outlandish!

This lovely Labor Day week(end) brought us not one, but TWO major film festivals (Telluride and Venice), officially launching the fall awards season push for distributors, actors, and other cinematic artisans.

We also got wind of who will be singing the latest 007 theme song for the upcoming Spectre, and, like Adele before him, we couldn’t be more excited to hear this Brit superstar interpret the famed spy’s smooth style. Will he add a Golden Globe and Oscar to his gold Grammy haul?

Finally, over the last several weeks, sequels and remakes for some seriously beloved films have been announced. Want to find out which ones? Read on, and savor this tall glass of Fresh-Squeezed Industry!  Continue reading

My Mid-Year Oscars: The Best of 2015 Thus Far

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The first chill of autumn is just on the horizon, and with it an onslaught of Oscar-bait, awards season cinema ripe for the binging. As such, this post could seem silly: why proclaim my favorites of the year in September, when others will almost surely overtake them by year’s end?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer, save for a desire to document for myself, and for my readers, the great films of the first three-quarters of the year. And there have been some, many of which I hope will achieve success with the Academy despite their early berth.

So, without further ado, let’s take a journey from January onward and explore my mid-year Oscar picks in a variety of categories (including my thoughts on how they will play into the year-end awards race!): Continue reading

Review: ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’

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Does having sex make someone an adult? When you finally access a sexual potential you’d only ever glimpsed—through crushes on movie stars or fleeting masturbatory fantasy—are you truly changed?

Such questions are answered rashly—and then thoughtfully reconsidered—in Marielle Heller’s superb Diary of a Teenage Girl, based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner.

“I had sex today,” Minnie (Bel Powley) tells us at the film’s outset, as she walks in slow-motion through a smoke-hazed San Francisco park, circa 1976. She is speaking into a tape recorder (the diary of the title) and her narration continues throughout the film, revealing how said sex is the catalyst for a whirlwind, up-down emotional tumult—not only because 15-year-old Minnie did the deed with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), her mother’s 30-something boyfriend. Continue reading

Fear Not: I Promise I Didn’t Quit Film!

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Don’t worry! Relax!

It may have seemed otherwise the last couple of months, but film is still very much a part of my life. Though I abandoned the site—an inter-state move and job complications proved rather more time consuming than anticipated—I continued to see amazing cinema on a semi-regular basis.

And, contrary to popular belief (and this incredible bad lip reading parody that I can’t help but share), the Republican debate was not the most entertaining pop cultural moment of the summer. Given the dearth of surprisingly great flicks gracing the silver screen over the past weeks, it would be hard to come up with just one title that impressed the most.

Amy was heartbreaking and re-introduced me to an incredible artist; Love and Mercy featured some of the best acting of the year, including a stellar star turn from Elizabeth Banks, and gave a fresh take on the musical biopic; Trainwreck and Spy were both inspired and naughty female-driven comedic gems; and don’t even get me started on Phoenix, a gorgeously-wrought, daringly frustrating look at post-World War II German life. (Don’t worry, I’ll  have reviews up for most of these soon!)

Now, I hope you’ll regain faith and join me once more in our cinematic adventures! In the coming months I’ll be exploring cinema classics, new releases, the ramp up to awards season, inside industry news, and more—and your comments and input will make it all that much better.

Fear not: Never in my right mind would I wish to quit film, and I hope you feel the same way.

20 Years of Pixar: Ranking the Best, From ‘Inside Out’ to ‘Toy Story’

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Pixar is an institution. There’s no doubt about it. The animation studio, arguably the most successful branch of the all-powerful Disney enterprise, just released its fifteenth film in twenty years, and most of those have been commercial and critical smash hits.

Beginning with Toy Story, winding through A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc., serving up some Ratatouille, all the while working hard to find Nemo, and chugging past Wall-E and Up, the Pixar brain trust have shared their collective Trains of Thought (a la 2015’s Inside Out) with the world. And oh, what a journey it has been.

The technology has improved exponentially, leading to ever-more visually arresting imagery, and surely a greater return on the complex, creative visions of Pixar’s directing team. The stories, too, have developed, and at their best they are evocative explorations of issues faced by viewers young and old alike. The best part? With a heavy slate of original films on the way—including The Good Dinosaur this Thanksgiving—Pixar’s engine is far from burnt out.

While many are apt to take on the entire Pixar canon when doing a subjective ranking, it seems to me an overwhelming task. Instead, I’d like to take a look at what I call top-tier Pixar. For me, these are the absolute best films that this illustrious studio has crafted. No, you won’t find Up here, or Toy Story 2, and it’s simply because they didn’t strike me the way others have (though they each contain particularly emotional, satisfying passages). What you will find is a list of seven incredible films that rank as some of the best of the past twenty years. Whether they follow small fish in a massive ocean, or larger-than-life superheroes, or even sewer-dwelling rats, Pixar has invested these films with thematic heft and visual splendor beyond what most others achieve, animated or otherwise.

Let’s not dilly-dally any longer… Continue reading

The Five Best Movie Musicals of the 2000s

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The movie musical is one of our most celebrated film genres, a marriage of a classic art form (the stage musical) with the limitless possibilities of filmmaking technology. These films not only take advantage of film craft, but often expand what imagery and thematic content we thought was possible to represent on screen.

The vivid color-coding and stage-like lighting of West Side Story; the shocking-yet-subtle Nazi themes running throughout The Sound of Music; the iconic visual storytelling and choreography of Oklahoma! All of these films benefit from their lush musical scores, and their stage counterparts benefit in turn from the expansive timelessness of the films. A perfect symbiosis of artistic expressions.

In many ways, the movie musical is not thought of as a modern genre. The “old classics” are revered and upheld as standards by which all others are measured. But the turn of the century has brought with it a new pack of stunning, emotionally-resonant, intelligent musicals. Some take Broadway shows as inspiration, while others are more interested in re-hashing Disney tropes or pop music of a certain time and place. Whatever their intent, the five movies I’ve chosen—all live-action, all utilizing music as an essential storytelling tool—are wonderful and singular in their own right.  Continue reading