Inside Out (2015)

Take a deep dive into your own head. Do an archaeological dig. Work your way all the way to the center. What do you find?Core memories. Foundational impressions. The moments that made you.Me? Mine are almost all related to creativity:- Reading books — fairy tales and fantasy, mostly.- Writing and illustrating my own fantasy stories with crayons, and then learning how to type out the words with my index finger on a typewriter.- Drawing pictures on church bulletins during c … [Read more...]

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

[This review has already been read by the Looking Closer Specialists, whose helpful responses persuaded me to see the movie a second time before publishing it. Thanks, Specialists! Read about how you can join the club that gets first-looks and access to a private Looking Closer Facebook group here.]•I am looking at the back of a man who stands on a sandy precipice beside his souped up sports car, and I have just enough time to think three things:1) Wow, the colors of this p … [Read more...]

Tomorrowland? Or Tomorrow-bland?

"Is anything more dispiriting than a failed attempt at inspiration?"That first line of Steven Greydanus's latest film review reminds me of some of the reviews I read for Andrew Stanton's first non-Pixar feature film — the unfortunately named, and more unfortunately reviewed, John Carter. That movie and its critical reception (rejection?) were hard pills to swallow for this faithful Pixar fan. Stanton's a great storyteller, and I had been excited about his labor of Edgar Rice Burroughs lov … [Read more...]

My Favorite Film of 2014: The Strange Little Cat

[This review was included in my Favorite Films of 2014 post. But, for the archives, it gets a post of its own.]•In one scene, two young people play Connect Four. Do you remember Connect Four? I loved playing this game when I was a kid. There was the tic-tac-toe fun of trying to see connections before somebody else did, but it was more complicated than tic-tac-toe, and it also had tactile elements that made it more satisfying: the sound of the chips clattering together, the sound of them … [Read more...]

Something, Anything

Ida, Ewa, Gloria, and now... the final contestant in this, the Looking Closer Beauty Pageant.Readers, let me catch you up: In early 2014, I began a four-part series in which I focused on films that captured the rare cinematic marvel of a living, breathing, three-dimensional female character — somebody who does not capture our attention by being fashion-model "perfect," but rather by evincing a far more human kind of beauty.The fourth part of the series has been long delayed because it to … [Read more...]

Looking Closer at Selma: My Review and Some Other Perspectives

Thank God Almighty. Director Ava Duvernay had a monumental task before her, making a high-profile motion picture focused on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, with a cast of famous names. What's more, the closer the film has come to release, the more the headlines have shown us just how much we need a Great Film about Dr. King's vision. Even great directors would probably have disappointed us. Think of Spielberg's Lincoln: Hey, I loved it, but I acknowledge that it had weaknesses, just as h … [Read more...]

The Fault in Our Stars (2014): First Impressions

"It was unbearable. Every second worse than the last."For the record, I hate cancer, and I'm in awe of those who bear that burden through unimaginable challenges. What's more — I love a good love story.With that settled... wow, this movie has some disappointing "faults" such that I couldn't rate it with "stars" (plural). One... okay, one and a half, for Shailene Woodley (who is excellent), and I'll leave it at that.[Caution: Spoilers ahead.] … [Read more...]

Moses and Errin’ — A Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings

Dear Ridley Scott,My name is Aaron. I'm the brother of Moses.In the Holy Scriptures, when Moses balks at God's call for him to go and free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, claiming a lack of eloquence, God gets aggravated and assigns me to travel with him, to face Pharaoh, and to act as Moses' translator."Moses and Aaron." To anyone of any religion who has grown up valuing this story, my name has belonged beside my brother's like Jacob and Esau. Like chocolate and peanut butter. … [Read more...]

Looking Closer’s Thanksgiving Movie: Terrence Malick’s The New World

As we observe Thanksgiving once again, my attention is on, yes, giving thanks. That means prayers of thanksgiving to the giver of all good things through times of harvest and hardship. That means giving attention to Anne, to my family, to friends and loved ones who enrich my life. And that means celebration.In my house, celebration is marked with candlelight, incense, a bounty of beverages (coffee, tea, pumpkin ales and winter ales, wine), a feast that's more about quality than quantity, … [Read more...]

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 — My First Impressions

[These first impressions were published earlier at Letterboxd. To catch my first impressions of almost every movie I see, sign up at Letterboxd and follow me there.]It must be strange to be Jennifer Lawrence, rising to become an icon for a generation, willfully playing the game of celebrity while trying to maintain her integrity, knowing full well that she's being exploited, knowing full well that the public that loves her now could turn against her in a moment, knowing full well that the … [Read more...]