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The Empathy Machine

June 11, 2015 Leave a comment

There was another version of this article that actually went on quite a bit of a rant, but I had to scrap it. I scrapped it not just for you, my reader, but also for myself, as I was writing more out of impassioned irritation than I was to make a coherent article about my relationship with film, as I had originally set out to do. I think this is a bit more focused, and a bit more biographical than that lecture, which I am honestly glad I had second thoughts about – and I do mean lecture as in “scold,” not “educational speech.” Part of what I almost lost sight of was an expression of my love for the medium of film, which, let’s face it, is the main topic of this blog is, after all!

Wall-E - Watching Hello Dolly

Wall-E

I do love film, though. I even admittedly sometimes love watching bad films, when the mood strikes, despite the fact that I usually end up griping about how awful they are by the time the credits begin – oftentimes earlier. I guess I’m a part time hate-watcher. That being said, however, I am admittedly an amateur when it comes to film appreciation. I’m rarely driven by more than gut instinct when it comes to analyzing the individual parts of a film, so I’m often left feeling quite inadequate to judge things like the composition of shots, the quality of the score, and the inventiveness of certain other techniques unless they really stand out to me. And, honestly, so long as those elements are either so well done that they either don’t call attention to themselves or are so transcendently novel that I can’t help but notice, I’m largely okay with that. For me, film has always been more than just the sum of its parts and more about what it’s actually saying on behalf of the artists involved and the subject it’s covering. (And, sometimes, films are mostly just entertaining, and that’s honestly okay, too!) Read more…

REVIEW: That Thing You Do!

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment
That Thing You Do!Directed by: Tom Hanks
Produced by: Jonathan Demme, Gary Goetzman, Edward Saxon
Written by: Tom Hanks
Edited by: Richard Chew
Cinematography by: Tak Fujimoto
Music by: Howard Shore
Songs by: Tom Hanks, Adam Schlesinger, Rick Elias, Scott Rogness, Mike Piccirillo, Gary Goetzman, Howard Shore
Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Tom Hanks, Obba Babatundé, Holmes Osborne, Charlize Theron, Bill Cobbs, Giovanni Ribisi
Year: 1996

 

If there were any two comedies that resonated with me as a kid as being truly “great” versus merely “entertaining,” those movies were Groundhog Day and That Thing You Do! These were movies I would watch when I was bored or when I was doing chores or when I was in a bad mood or when I was in a good mood – or when I was just really in the mood for some truly great movies, period. These were also two of the few movies that everyone in my family could agree upon to watch together and be contented with while growing up, which, if you know my childhood, was something very significant. Read more…

2014 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen

February 7, 2015 1 comment

Under the Skin - Eye

Finally, we come to the films that I actually did see! As with the films I didn’t see, these films will come at you in three parts: the films that were just somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, the films I greatly disliked, and the films I really enjoyed.

I use those qualitative terms just to avoid confusion over what I’m ranking here. The films in this section range from generally bad to generally quite good, but never elevating to excellence or making me fall in love with them or making me hate them with a passion. That being said, I didn’t expect to like some of the films here as much as I ended up liking them, and, of course, I was letdown by others I actually was kind of looking forward to.

If you don’t see the movie here and didn’t see it in the list of films I didn’t see, then you can almost certainly be guaranteed to find them on one of my next two lists, as this is just a portion of the 121 total films I ended up seeing from 2014 as of this writing, whether in theatres, on DVD/Blu-Ray, or through streaming. Read more…

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Review: “Billy Elliot”

August 19, 2013 2 comments
Billy ElliotDirected by: Stephen Daldry
Produced by: Greg Brenman, Jonathan Finn
Written by: Lee Hall
Edited by: John Wilson
Cinematography by: Brian Tufano
Music by: Stephen Warbeck (original score)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell, Adam Cooper
Year: 2000

 

I’ve never been the manliest guy around. Just the other night, I watched E.T. and, yes, I totally cried at the end. I’ve never been super aggressive, and I’ve never been interested in being an aggressive person apart from feigning it for my own amusement – because I think it’s a little bit ridiculous, you see. Growing up in a super-conservative household and around super-conservative people, however, my not playing sports was somewhat of a point of contention for a lot of people. Contention was actually pretty frequent. Most of the time, people just drooled over my size and asked me why I wasn’t playing football, then acting like I was crazy when I said I wasn’t interested. (I was always fairly big for my age, and, at nearly 27, I am probably only 1 ½ inches taller now than I was in 7th grade.) Other times, it could get a bit nastier, with various names being lobbed my way. (Some kids and even some adults are just jerks.) Read more…

Spoilers: The New “Just Say No” Campaign

November 18, 2011 2 comments
Image

Click to see more Anti-Spoiler Campaign posters. Spoiler Alert: Possibly "offensive" language?

I know the world supposedly has a severe attention span problem, but seriously, why would you want to know the ending of something before you even bother diving in or before you’re even halfway through the movie?

Whenever I’m discussing a movie I’d like for someone to see, it’s almost inevitable that somebody is going to ask, in some shape or form or manner, “What happens at the end?” Why is that? Why would you want to know?

The movie, TV show, whatever you’re discussing, has been laid out for you already. If you don’t care enough about it, then fine, I get it. I reluctantly will stoop to spoiling it for you then, if you really don’t have an interest in seeing the film, though I’ll likely feel dirty doing it. But if you’ve already committed yourself to seeing it, even going as far as to sitting down and starting the movie, why would you then ask, “So why did that just happen?”

YOU WILL FIND OUT IF YOU JUST PAY ATTENTION.

When I go into the theatre or pull up a movie I have never seen, I want to know only one thing: the basic concept of the film. That’s it. That’s what informs me what a movie is about and whether it is worth my attention. Whether the film turns out good or bad, I have already decided to let the filmmakers tell me the story, not my friends, not my family, not someone on the Internet.

This goes along with my idea of art being a testimony. A film is more than just its plot — it is also the assemblage of its plot, the delivery of its plot, perspective of the plotters, etc. Context is everything. Consuming art from its intended context is how we get a full view, or at least begin to get a full view, of what the artist intended for us to take from it as an audience, and also what we as an audience actually do take from the film from our own perspective. Discussion of a plot before you know the outcome just ruins the experience of gaining that first impression from the artist themselves, rather than your friend’s rough summary of the experience. (On a related note, this is related to why it’s generally pretty rude to talk or make obnoxious noises during movies if someone hasn’t seen it yet, too.)

Even if you haven't seen this film, you probably know what happens in the end. Kinda sucks for you, doesn't it?

Once you have both seen the film, then by all means, discuss it and get someone else’s full perspective on it. That’s how we learn from art, and that’s how we get smarter, but we should always be mindful of the fact that there are others out there who have yet to be given the chance to experience some films, both awesome and bad, on a firsthand basis. And why would you want to rob them of that?

So I encourage you, if you spot someone about to spoil a movie for someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to experience it, stick up for the victim. Grab a sock and shove it in the spoiler’s mouth! And if the person you just stuck up for tells you they wanted to know the spoilers, give them a dirty look and say to them, “What’s wrong with you? You… you’re stupid, is what you are!” That’ll show ’em.

(Sidenote: Now I admit, I often do want to know whether the movie is good or bad, as well. I get the whole issue of having limited time, and I do not think reading a thoughtful review – one that is mindful of not discussing the plot in full detail, that is – is contrary to having a movie spoiled. We are limited in our time, and our time is often best served elsewhere. I also understand that my reviews are often filled with spoilers. I try to notify you of this when I can, and if I don’t, then I really do apologize. I tend to review older films, and so these reviews are often intended to be at least an attempt at going deeper into my opinions and thoughts on the film as a whole and encouraging discussion, rather than just telling you a plot summary and what my rating is, but this site is essentially intended to encourage the post-viewing discussion more than it is just a reporter of quality. … At least that is my intent!)

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