Joe, Age 5: A Kindergarten Critic’s Favorite Films

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Earlier today, I met up with an old childhood friend. She is in New York for the weekend and came to the park where I work. We had a lovely, brief chat, and caught up on the people we went to preschool and kindergarten with. You see, this friend and I were married when we were five; if I remember correctly, she’s the first person I said “I love you” to, outside of my own family.

She told me that she has been reading my blog, and I was so happy. To know that this little passion project is making its way to people from all facets of my life is wonderful.

It also got me thinking: what movies did I obsess over and re-watch when I was in preschool? Kindergarten? There are certainly a few that stand out, beyond your every day Disney animated classics—I was partial to The Lion King and Aladdin, in case you were wondering.

Let’s jump inside 5-year-old me’s mind and explore the, ahem, highly intellectual cinephilic kindergarten critic! Continue reading

Review: ‘Inside Out’

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In Inside Out, Pixar’s latest effort (and its best since Toy Story 3), writer-director Pete Docter wonders what those little voices in our head look like. More importantly, he wonders what they do. The film supposes that as we grow, so too do our emotions evolve. They may be as hesitant about change as we are, and sometimes they lose control when we need them most; but they remain an inextricable, unique part of our being.

By crafting a vibrant inner-world to off-set the all-too-realistic urban malaise of the outer, the marvelous Inside Out works on multiple levels: as an often hilarious and highly emotional journey for a set of emotions personified, and as a relatable, melancholy coming-of-age narrative for Riley, the girl whose mind we come to know intimately.

Even at its most hi-jink-filled—and the film does verge into hokey, jokey territory—Inside Out maintains a soulful, mature core energy, as Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), by way of Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), learns that all emotions are valid, purposeful, and necessary.

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Weekly Scene(s): My Mom’s Favorites

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It’s late May, and that means Mother’s Day has come and gone. It also means that my mom just came to visit us (me and my boyfriend) in New York City, a raucous, joyful occasion. Clearly, those two facts mean that a blog post about my mom’s favorite movie scenes—and how they rubbed off on me—is in order!

I mention my dad a lot in relation to film, if not here than at least in my academic papers and personal writing on the subject. He introduced me to a great many genres and titles that have since become favorites of mine, and I treasure the notion that they will always have added meaning because they came from him.

But my mom has always been a major influence on me as well. Our sense of humor is almost perfectly in sync, and while she can’t appreciate horror or war films (see: My (Birth)Date With Hannibal Lecter), I have found myself in an uncontrollable fit of laughter with my mom all too often. And it is, and always will be, a joy!

So let’s dig deep into the scenes that make us, my mom and I, howl with laughter; those moments that bring us together in the way that only a mutual film-watching experience can. Continue reading

Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

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In rare cases, a film can sustain itself without the complex narrative structures or near-constant dialogue audience members have come to expect. If the world-building is specific, the performances strong, and the vision grand, one can walk away out of the theater almost entirely satisfied and eager for more.

Such was my experience with Mad Max: Fury Road, technically the fourth movie in the iconic, post-apocalyptic series helmed by George Miller. One need not have seen any of the other films to understand or appreciate Fury Road, though. This is a two-hour, wildly creative onslaught of batsh*t insane action set pieces, connected by the depressing, lived-in reality of a world both foreign and all too familiar.

Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, Fury Road has risen to the top of the summer blockbuster heap, unlikely to be dethroned by any subsequent releases (at least in quality). But this isn’t your typical air-conditioned, watch-things-blow-up excursion to the theater; scripted with an emphasis on the surreal and strange, with a visual language and dialect all its own, Fury Road is a wild ride made all the stronger by its differentiation from the summer glut. Continue reading

Previewing the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

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The Cannes Film Festival is the world’s most prestigious and diverse showing of world cinema. Wildly varied juries judge even more unique crops of movies over a roughly ten day period, and film-lovers everywhere rejoice. Each year, this festival serves as our first look at some of the most anticipated and intriguing cinematic efforts on offer, and positive critical reception out of Cannes can mean rousing success for films both in and out of competition.

This year’s festival begins today, May 13, and runs until May 24. In that time, industry insiders, critics, and filmmakers will watch dozens of movies and begin spreading the word. Did the audience boo? Did people walk out? How long was the standing ovation for that Hou Hsiao-Hsien martial arts epic? These are the moments and stories that matter, and they no doubt impact the list of awards handed out at the end, not to mention hopes for the upcoming award season.

Let’s dig into Cannes 2015, and learn a little more about what we should be keeping an eye out for this year!

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Weekly Scene: The Sixth Sense

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“I see dead people.” An iconic line, one much parodied and ridiculed since its debut in M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 horror-drama The Sixth Sense.

No, I will not be focusing on the scene in which young Cole Sear (the superb Haley Joel Osment) tells his psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis, doing wonderful, understated work), of his macabre predicament. It may be this film’s most iconic moment—and it makes for a far more dynamic screenshot—but I’d rather focus on an even more intimate scenario.

That’d be the one when Cole tells his mom, Lynn (an ever-fabulous Toni Collette) his deep, dark secret and speaks aloud his greatest fear: “You think I’m a freak?” Continue reading

Three Summery Sundance Faves to Sate Your Indie Appetite

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I’m in a summery mood. The high on my weather.com app reads above 70 degrees and the air outside is charged with that characteristic humid stickiness. And, if I’m being honest, indulging in the crash-bang fun of Avengers: Age of Ultron made me feel as though the summer movie season has officially begun!

Though there will be plenty of high-octane, action-adventure sagas smashing their away across megaplexes in the coming months, our theaters won’t be completely devoid of well-developed characters and unique narratives. We can also set our sights on a few indie favorites that premiered wayyyyy back in icy January.

Three critically-acclaimed crowd-pleasers from the Sundance Film Festival are making their way to a city near you—or at least New York and L.A.—within two weeks of each other this June, and I am thrilled. Their subjects couldn’t be more different, the characters drawn from disparate subsets of American popular culture, and the narratives bending in wildly divergent trajectories. But they all seem to share a vivacity and energy particular to the summer season, a la Sundance predecessor-turned-Oscar-favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

Will these garner the same sort of attention? Rumor has it that the young stars of Dope and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl could stand a chance come Oscar season. But really they, along with the sex-charged couples in The Overnight, are here to entertain. And entertain they shall!

Let’s learn a little more about these summery Sundance faves! Continue reading