Five Years Later: Pixar’s Up Remains an Achievem- … SQUIRREL!

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This summer is the fifth anniversary of the theatrical release of Up, and it is standing the test of time as one of Pixar's greats. If it weren't for the "dogfighting" at the end, which took things a bit too far for me (talking dogs — okay, I'll go there, but talking dogs that fly airplanes?), I'd be tempted to call it a masterpiece. Here's my original commentary on the film, which was originally published at Good Letters, the blog hosted by Image, on July 24, 2009. … [Read more...]

The 2014 Looking Closer Beauty Pageant — Contestant 3: Gloria

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Ida... Ewa. Ewa... Ida. Ida and Ewa... let me introduce you to Gloria. It began when I realized how rarely I see a halfway decent female character on the big screen in 2014. Looking around, I see a lot of female supporting characters, most of them shallow and frivolous, most of them fulfilling flawed definitions of "beauty," and most of them just... well... supporting male characters. Where are the admirable leading roles for women this year? Are there any that don't expect those characters … [Read more...]

The 2014 Looking Closer Beauty Pageant — Contestant 1: Ida

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"Mirror, mirror, on the wall... who's the fairest of them all?" In the famous fairy tale, that's what the vain and wicked queen asks her own reflection. Nevertheless, when it comes to the women of pop culture, that seems to be the question that American moviegoers can't stop asking. The more I watch the ways in which actresses become household names — making themselves a more popular subject than their characters — the more I see similarities between the Celebrity Factory and the lurid … [Read more...]

Looking Closer at How to Train Your Dragon 2

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This is the first weekend in a long time that is really a weekend for me. I can rest, read, write, walk, explore... and go to the movies. I'm thinking about seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2. I'm normally frustrated with Dreamworks Animation films — they're usually obnoxious and misguided and pandering. But that film surprised me with impressive characterizations, an unexpectedly thoughtful plot, and 3D flight sequences. We watched a young Viking named Hiccup learn to consider his … [Read more...]

Confessions of an X-Men Ex-Fan [Revised]

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 When Mutants aren't fighting for their rights... what do they do? Do they vacuum their apartments? Do they go to baseball games? Do they watch cat videos? Or does the Mutant Experience require constant employment of powers against those who hate Mutants, or against those Mutants who abuse their powers? … [Read more...]

Why Moviegoers Everywhere Must Learn to Say “Zvyagintsev”

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If you hear film buffs shouting "Zvyagintsev!" in the coming months, do not say "Gesundheit." The proper response is this: "When do I get to see Leviathan?" … [Read more...]

Surely J. J. Abrams Can Do Better: Phantom Menace at 15

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UPDATE: May 2014 Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace is 15 years old this week. I know, I know. Take a deep breath. Let go of your anger, young Jedi. Most of us agree that it was a major disappointment. Many had hoped for a new trilogy that would be, for a new generation, what that first trilogy was for those of us who experienced it as children — something truly revolutionary, enthralling, and worth watching over and over again. But it was easy to see, right away, that The Phantom … [Read more...]

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) … or Squandering Mr. Hanks

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Dear moviegoers who enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks, including those among my friends and family, I'm glad you had a good time at the movies. Seriously. I would be nothing but a snob if I scorned anybody for enjoying a heart-warming work of fiction like this one. I recognize that there are a lot of things moviegoers will enjoy here: Tom Hanks, being witty and skillful; Emma Thompson, being amusing and... British; nostalgic musical celebrations of Mary Poppins™; Paul Giamatti, in … [Read more...]

Forget Twilight: These Are My Favorite Vampires

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We're all vampires. That is to say, we all have particular kinds of "blood" that we seek — sources of sustenance and inspiration that keep our eyes open and our hearts beating in a dark and punishing world. … [Read more...]

Scarlett Johansson is a Monster: Under the Skin

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Feel free to eavesdrop as I argue with myself upon exiting the theater after seeing Jonathan Glazer's* troubling new sci-fi horror film Under the Skin. But it's a spoiler-ish conversation... … [Read more...]


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