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 →

Film Review: Icarus

Icarus

Icarus written by Bryan Fogel and Jon Bertain and directed by Bryan Fogel (Netflix, Alex Productions, Chicago Media Project, Diamond Docs, TV-MA, 121 min) Starring Bryan Fogel and Grigory Rodchenkov. Let the Story Lead You An old adage in writing is to let the story takes you where it takes you. When you write “hot” as Ray Bradbury famously states, the story leads you, not the other way around. Such an approach makes the creative process exceedingly messy. Work operates in a non-linear fashion, one idea here, another idea there. Some ideas wither, a fragment unconnected like a comet hurtling through space. Other ideas come out of nowhere, hijack the outline of what was to come, making the story something… Read More →

Film Review: The Florida Project

The Florida Project

The Florida Project written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch and directed by Sean Baker (A24, Cre Film, Freestyle Picture Company, June Pictures, R, 111 min) Starring Brooklynn Prince, Christopher Rivera, Aiden Milk, Josie Olivio, Valeria Cotto, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, and Mela Murder. The Innocence of Childhood vs. The Horrors of Being Poor I think my son gets bored some weekends. Whether it’s too hot or too cold, raining, or what-not, we don’t always make it outside, or even if we do, not to the extent my son might wish. In these times of boredom, his imagination runs wild, which can be fun to watch. But I bet he’d likely want to do something more interesting. Between safety and… Read More →

Film Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi written and directed by Rian Johnson (Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Ram Bergman Productions, PG-12, 152 min) Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, and Benicio Del Toro. Workshopping as Strategy In my old consulting gig, we would often find clients asking if our planned interview time would act as a brainstorming session for the company’s all-up mission, vision, and values. Doesn’t it make sense on the surface to ask such a question? The employees know the company culture best. Shouldn’t they hold the power to cobble together a mission and vision one word at… Read More →

Film Review: Coco

Coco

Coco written by Lee Unkrich and Jason Katz, directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 105 min) Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Herbert Siguenza. Life Transportation My favorite thing about reading fiction? The ability to transport into the life of another human being. There’s something special about a novel’s internalized point of view that builds empathy for people too often labeled as “other.” Visual storytelling is a little more difficult. Humans inherently read their unconscious biases into what they see. No matter how pious, virtuous, or philanthropical someone might be, too often a viewer can’t move beyond a skin tone. This sad reality, from… Read More →

Film Review: The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis and directed by Nora Twomey (Aircraft Pictures, Cartoon Saloon, Mélusine Productions, PG-13, 94 min) Starring Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Noorin Gulamgaus, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, and Ali Kazmi. A Hypothetical Nightmare Imagine for a second a hypothetical nightmare. You, by your appearance alone, are unable to enter the public sphere. The marketplace, the agora where locals buy and sell goods is off limits. What would you do, especially if the government does little to support the marginalized and the least of these? Would you risk punishment or death to find food? Or would you wither away at home, hoping for charity? Fortunately, many people in America never need to… Read More →

Film Review: A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story written and directed by David Lowery (A24, Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fats Productions, Ideaman Studios, R, 92 min) Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. I Will Follow You into the Dark Reflections on the afterlife can leave unsettling inferences unsaid. If heaven is more than just a place on earth, then what will we do? With whom will we spend time? How does a consciousness known only in the linear encounter and operate in the infinite? In my younger years, I always feared the afterlife my faith tradition composed. The notion of sitting in God’s glory and worshipping forever seems utterly dull. But, compared to eternal damnation, I guess a boring existence is an upgrade? The ghost… Read More →