12 YEARS A SLAVE: Absolutely Essential

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How long can a movie stick with you?  Some popcorn flicks are so forgettable; they fade before the credits end.   Such temporary respites barely hold boredom at bay.  The best films may carry over to Monday morning and become worthy of a water cooler conversation.   In the month since I saw 12 Years a Slave, I have thought about it every single day.  No particular social cues resurrected the torture, terror, and exploitation of others found in 12 Years.   But the extended scenes of suffering are … [Read more...]

THE SPECIAL EFFECT OF SHORT TERM 12

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It has been a strong season for independent film, from the Southern gothic MUD to the inner city tale, FRUITVALE, and the nostalgic comedy, THE WAY WAY BACK.   The freshest, funniest, and most original film of the summer slips into theaters as students head back to school.   SHORT TERM 12 captures the angst of adolescence in raw, riveting and revelatory ways.   It focuses upon teenagers who are neglected and overlooked, offering them the dignity they richly deserve.  Brie Larson stars as Grac … [Read more...]

FRUITVALE STATION: Oscar, Trayvon, and Us

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There has been plenty of heat generated by the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.   I have read so many heartfelt responses and blog posts in an effort to understand what transpired.   Some have been more helpful and insightful than others.   With the Florida jurors now chiming in, Trayvon Martin’s shortened life may be buried under the rush for television ratings.   That is why Fruitvale Station is such a timely and important movie.   It allows us to step into the shoes of another you … [Read more...]

Making Hay in the Man of Steel’s Cornfields

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 Some loved the reimagining of the Superman story in Man of Steel.   Others were not impressed by the wall-to-wall action that culminates in an uncharacteristic act by Kal-El.  Millions of fanboys and fangirls are definitely discussing it online.   I contributed to the heat surrounding the marketing of Man of Steel to the Christian community by penning sermon notes available at ManofSteelResources.com.   Eric Marrapodi at CNN’s “BeliefBlog” noted how pastors have both embraced and reje … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

LES MISERABLES: A Truly Moving Picture

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Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is a dicey undertaking.   Bringing a rapturously remembered musical to the movies is even more risky.   Following up an Oscar winning film is also fraught with danger.   And yet, Tom Hooper expands his remarkably assured direction of The King’s Speech in the epic, poetic, and nearly overwrought Les Miserables.   Opening on Christmas Day, Les Miserables embodies the Easter narrative—sacrifice, death and resurrection.   It is about the eternal tension betw … [Read more...]


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