Film Review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Wont You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor directed by Morgan Neville (Tremolo Productions, PG-13, 94 min) Starring Fred Rodgers. The Virtue of Childhood and the Small Dismissals of Parenthood There is a distance between a child and a parent. Too often, a parent abuses the disproportionate capacity for information, discounting a child’s experience in the process. When a child falls down and begins to cry, shocked that such an event has occurred, too often a parent brushes it off. Refrains of “You’re fine” combat the expressions of fear, doubt, and misunderstanding found in the child’s cries. Or, when a child tells a parent that he or she is afraid of the dark, the parent often says there’s nothing to be afraid of,… Read More →

Film Review: Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade written and directed by Bo Burnham (IAC Films, A24, R, 93 min) Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, and Emily Robinson. Time to Worry When I was younger, my mom would stay up until I returned home from whatever teenage exploits in which I had decided to engage. Early. Late. She’d be sitting on the couch reading, watching television, waiting patiently. Stubbornly, I often didn’t consider this sacrifice. Instead, it always bothered me—that somehow I wasn’t to be trusted. But, she would always reinforce that this decision wasn’t really about me. She couldn’t sleep with me in absentia. She needed the peace of mind about my safety before she could retire. Now, with kids of my own, I get… Read More →

Film Review: Roma

Roma

Roma written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Films, Participant Media, Netflix, R, 135 min) Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García, Verónica García, and Jorge Antonio Guerrero. The World Spins Madly On In consideration of the deterministic nature of reality, we often note that the world spins madly on. In the face of intense despair and grief. In the moments of bliss and joy. Beneath it all, the world continues its motion, arcing through space consistently plummeting toward the sun in a gravitational pull fast enough to slingshot by year after year. But, from our lowly vantage, the world doesn’t appear to spin, definitely not madly on. It… Read More →

Film Review: First Reformed

First Reformed

First Reformed written and directed by Paul Schrader (Killer Films, Fibonacci Films, Arclight Films, A24, R, 113 min) Starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger, and Michael Galston. The Inability to Kick Either At some point during the endless cycle of retweets that presages the viral, a tweet happened upon my feed that defines my experience pretty well. In talking about a band, The Hold Steady, this tweet notes that the love of the band comes from a Catholic upbringing driving them to drink and then being unable to kick either his upbringing or his love of spirits. While I wasn’t raised Catholic, my own religious background provides plenty of reason to drink, and I,… Read More →

Film Review: Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark written by Macon Blair and William Giraldi and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Addictive Pictures, Film Science, VisionChaos Productions, Netflix, TV-MA, 125 min) Starring Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough, Alexander Skarsgård, Julian Black Antelope, and James Badge Dale. Raging Against the Dying of the Light I can think of nothing less classically romantic or poetic than the struggle at the end of a life. Because we fail to grasp the true depths of death, our language and expectations around it are so foreign. We block it off. We refuse to give it the detailed consideration that we might give our wedding day. We live in a constant fight against its ends, as Dylan Thomas would suggest, we rage against… Read More →

Film Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Annapurna Pictures, Mike Zoss Productions, Netflix, R, 133 min) Starring Tim Blake Nelson, David Krumholtz, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Tom Waits, Sam Dillon, Bill Heck, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson, and Tyne Daly. The Next Great American Author Ever since Mark Twain, the literary-minded in the United States have been clamoring for the next Great American author. Well, maybe arguing more than clamoring. However, as I explore the many genres of the written word, I’m starting to believe the argument for or against a specific author is fruitless. Instead, I’m coming to believe there’s a Great American genre, the short story. About a year… Read More →

Film Review: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Bull Productions, Double Dare You, R, 123 min) Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. A Brilliant and Brackish Mélange The cascading arpeggiated melody, on an accordion sets the stage for a magical film to come. Slippery, the melody meanders like a tributary to a bigger concept to come. As this melody pushed me into Guillermo del Toro’s world of The Shape of Water, I kept feeling like I was viewing a spiritual descendant of Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, despite no thematic similarities in the surface. Much like Tim Burton before him, Guillermo del Toro’s The… Read More →

Film Review: Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Focus Features, Annapurna Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, R, 130 min) Starring Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Lesley Manville. Daily Routine When the topic of dignified work enters a discussion, Victorian Era seamstresses in the West End offer a case study in “how-not-to treat your workers.” Long hours and slight wages created harsh conditions and some early investigative journalism shone light on this situation, to the outcry of those reasonably minded. One small side note from this revelation was the daily routines of these overworked women. Many, sewing stitches for hours on end, would continue the motions of sewing even after their shifts concluded. This phenomenon earned the name the phantom thread,… Read More →

Film Review: A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born written by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper and directed by Bradley Cooper (Warner Bros. Pictures, Live Nation Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, R, 136 min) Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, and Dave Chappelle. Chasing the Profound What makes something profound? What conditions of elements must mix together to create a compelling mélange? Surely, surprise must operate as a key element. That which is typical tends not to point toward profundity. We’ve seen it before. It also seems as if relatability acts as a key pillar. If an artwork doesn’t feel human, it likely doesn’t pull at the emotional depths of what makes us who we are. But, it feels like… Read More →

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri written and directed by Martin McDonagh (Blueprint Pictures, Film 4, Fox Searchlight Pictures, R, 115 min) Starring Frances McDormand, Caleb Landry Jones, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage. On Magnetism The term magnetic paints an evocative picture about a personality. From a young age, magnetism draws puerile fascination. Magnets make scientists out of us all. We place them farther and farther apart hoping to see where the magical pull finally loses its sway. We change dimension, trying to understand how a magnet can pull against gravity as an equal and opposite force. We add velocity to magnets, hoping to understand whether inertia holds more influence than the force clamping the magnets together…. Read More →