MUD: McConaughey on the Mississippi is an instant classic

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Searching for a movie full of heart and soul?   Mud is a scrappy bit of Americana, hewn from the banks of the Mississippi River.   Filmmaker Jeff Nichols taps into his Arkansas roots to craft an instant classic, like Tom Sawyer, circa 2013.    But Mud isn’t just a sentimental glance back to life on the Mississippi.   It is a heartfelt paean to the power of love amidst trying circumstances.   The crippling effects of poverty may threaten families and undermine stability, but the desire to build a … [Read more...]

Greatest Graduation Speech of our Era? DFW’s This is Water.

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As a college professor, I have endured sooooo many graduation speeches.    It is a tough assignment, speaking to graduates who simply want to march across the stage.   The clock is ticking against graduation speakers before they even begin.   How to capture the attention of grads who veer between naivete and cynicism?   Steve Jobs delivered an inspiring salvo at Stanford. Speakers must resist the temptation to put forth empty platitudes.   The grads may respond to cynical humor that matches their … [Read more...]

Health for Hoarders (like me): Jeff Shinabarger’s More or Less

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  My closet is loaded with clothes.   My garage is full of boxes.   Even my inbox is crammed with correspondence.   I am surrounded by so much stuff.    Jeff Shinabarger’s perceptive book, More or Less, was written for people like me.   We may call ourselves “collectors” or “enthusiasts” or simply someone who has stocked up on a few items in case a disaster strikes.    We may not want to hoard and store up, but the sheer volume of things we acquire over the years can threaten to overwhelm us.   … [Read more...]

EYES TO SEE: TO THE WONDER

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To the Wonder aspires to nothing less than showing us Absolute Reality in the face of brokenness.  It is a sun kissed paean to the power of love that unfolds at a maddening pace.   Director Terrence Malick has made a ballet, a symphony, a kaleidoscope that harkens back to the glory and simplicity of silent film.   Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures luminescent moments.  Five editors (!) were called upon to craft the free flowing improvisation into musical passages.   It is cinematic sympho … [Read more...]

APPRECIATING EBERT: IN SEARCH OF TRANSCENDENCE

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On the occasion of Roger Ebert’s funeral, I pause to offer two days of appreciation.   My movie love preceded “Siskel & Ebert At the Movies,” but not by much.   For my generation of film fans, they were the key critics at the right moment.    Their weekly, televised reviews arrived in the eighties at the same time that so many classic movies arrived on home video.   What had previously been the province of film societies suddenly opened up to a much broader audience.   Gene Siskel and Roger E … [Read more...]

THE VIKINGS VS. THE BIBLE

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The History Channel has an epic new mini-series premiering this Sunday night.  I saw a huge, four-page fold out ad for it in this month’s Wired (right behind the cool Star Wars cover).    Billboards along Sunset Boulevard declare “The Storm is Coming” with the airdate, “3.3.13”.   The Los Angeles Times Calendar has a front-page story and photo on it today.   A reviewer at io9 raved that “it’s like Game of Thrones without the nudity.” All this buzz is being directed at a show about Vikings.   Not … [Read more...]

POST-OSCAR DETOX: A DAY TO UNPLUG

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After all the hoopla generated during Hollywood’s awards season, I feel the need to regain some perspective, to rally around something other than a golden idol.  Seth McFarlane's 'humor' made me eager for a post-Oscar detox.   For a class experiment at Pepperdine University, I have our communication and media majors unplug for a day.   No electronic devices allowed.    They are fine with giving up email or laptops, maybe even the car stereo, but the thought of separating from their mobile devices … [Read more...]

SNEAK PEEK OF MY NEXT BOOK

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Here it is--first glimpse of the cover (not finalized) for my next book.   What do you think?  Does it draw you in?  Intrigue you?  I definitely value your feedback and comments.Thanks to the book, I've fallen silent on this site recently.  It is tough to generate blog posts when you're already pouring so many words into a new project.    So I've taken the long view--investing in my upcoming book for Brazos Press rather than the shifts of Oscar season.I have been quite energized by the re … [Read more...]

ZERO DARK THIRTY is the Best Film of 2012

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1.  Zero Dark Thirty—A brilliant distillation of the costs, compromises, resolve, and results of a manhunt.   Screenwriter Mark Boal grafts news reports we heard and ignored alongside intelligence gathering techniques we’d rather not acknowledge into the best part for any actress this year.  Heroism has many faces, but none more meticulous than the lead investigator, Maya.   Jessica Chastain evolves from innocence to insistence, navigating two intransigent systems. The Oscars may have snubbed dir … [Read more...]

OSCARS 2013: Lincoln Leads but Beasts and Amour Surprise

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With the Oscars just announced, many were shocked to see Benh Zeitlin, young director of Beasts of the Southern Wild get nominated over Ben Affleck, director of Argo.   The Academy can be mercurial.   The sheer joy pouring from Zeitlin’s take on a Bayou Bathtub somehow exceeded the respect for a Hollywood insider’s homage to the power of movie magic to befuddle Iranian authorities.    I enjoyed the craft of Argo more than Beasts, but kudos to Zeitlin for his burst of independent originality.   Wh … [Read more...]


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