Racial Appetites

Get Out is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. Peele, half of the comedy duo Key and Peele–guess which half–also wrote the movie.  Looks like Peele’s career as a filmmaker has only just begun. I read two reviews that awkwardly address the film’s racial theme:


Plot: Guess who’s coming to dinner? Before embarking on a weekend in the country at his white girlfriend’s family summer house, Chris learns that she has not told her parents that he is black. After they arrive, strange happenings occur in and around the house. The film is in the horror genre.


review by Thelma Adams

Spoilers skimmable? No. It is too hard to avoid the bazillion spoilers.

Bottom line: the movie is very good. Adams particularly loves that it is an allegory for a black man’s living in a white society–Chris is paranoid in his girlfriend’s house; sounds like for good reason.

Thriller with a lesson: “Without a moment that sacrifices humor or shocks or narrative speed, Peele uses the mainstream thriller form to get under the skin—and behind the eyes—of a black man navigating the dominant white culture.” Adams adds there should be  more movies with diverse filmmakers so that they too can represent what it’s like to be part of their own marginalized groups. (Note that it’s referred to as a horror not a thriller everywhere else.)

Adams adds that production companies should be incentivized to hire more black directors because “black-driven entertainment” brings in big box office bucks: “In its opening weekend, Get Out struck a chord and grossed $30.5 million.”

Is it me? This review seems disingenuous. First, calling entertainment “black driven” sounds weird to me. Like looking for a politically correct euphemism when you don’t need one. Call it black movies or black entertainment, but not “black-driven entertainment.”

GRR: I was tricked into reading what looks like a MAJOR spoiler, and I’m looking to criticize the review in retaliation.

The lovely couple
The lovely couple


review by Matt Goldberg

Spoilers skimmable? NO. I now know too much.

Bottom line: grade A-. Peele uses the horror genre to great effect: “He utilizes the sharp subtext that the horror genre provides to create a cutting commentary on racial dynamics.”

You lost me: Goldberg says that the film “functions like a punch in the mouth to every Obama voter that went to Trump.” I assume he is referring to every white Obama-Trump voter? He’s talking about people who claim to be unprejudiced who actually are racist. I’d venture a guess to say that there are many Obama- and Hillary-voters who are also racist but claim not to be.

Peele directs






She’s got it going on

Something for everyone: a sci-fi thinking person’s zombie movie:

The Girl With All the Gifts

Meet Melanie
Melanie contemplating

(opens 2/24/17)

Plot: a fungus disease has turned most of humanity into zombies. In the hopes of finding a cure, a bunch of children who are infected are used as lab rats in a government lab led by a scientist played by Glenn Close. The children are infected with the disease, but act like normal non-flesh eating humans, although they are kept under lock and key. When there are too many  “hungries” (zombies) close to breaking into the lab, an adolescent named Melanie leads a search for a safe place to settle. Do not overlook this film. There is a theme lurking somewhere within–Although Melanie hungers for human flesh, she is adorable and forms a precious bond with her teacher in this dystopian story.

The movie was directed by Colm McCarthy, a Brit who also directs episodes of Sherlock and Peaky Blinders, another popular British TV Show. The screenplay was written by Mike Carey, who also wrote the novel (same title).

Melanie learning


review by Heather Wixson

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, if you’re careful.

Bottom Line: 4/5 stars. Wixson pronounces it  “One of Best Zombie Film Years.”

Zombie flick with a twist: the zombies here are not “mindless, flesh-eating monsters with no sense of humanity left to them.” Except for their eating habits and nasty personalities, the zombies may be as human as you and me–that at least applies to the kids. Wixson says this film is a “new and clever way to explore this oft-visited horror sub-genre.”


review by Leigh Singer

Be still my heart. Towards the beginning of the review, this reviewer whispers sweet nothings into my eyes:

“To reveal more would be unfair.”

I’m gonna get you sucka: after that, it’s a disaster. Two sentences later, Singer tells us what is in the first scene. And that is only the beginning.  This is one spoiler-laden review.

Melanie sitting
Melanie sitting

Hypocrisy: as  much as I would like to discount this review, it makes the movie sound interesting because Singer says that this isn’t just a zombie movie; it’s a “smart, exciting film in general.”

More: “But what’s instantly clear is how The Girl With All the Gifts respects genre conventions yet still springs plenty of surprises.”

Eyes wide open: according to Singer, it is light on the gore.

Spoilers NOT skimmable.



Oscars, Phase 2

dc7p5lzc9Sunday, February 12th, was a big day. The voting period for Oscar winners started, and it ends on February 21st. In campaign terms, this is Phase 2, when production companies are in a promotion frenzy to get members of the Academy to vote for their movies and nominees. There are actually specialists in Phase 2 promotion that movie studios hire. It took us a long time to find someone in the biz to talk about Phase 2. X, an actor in many movies, agreed to talk to us about it on the condition of anonymity.

Warning: No Spoilers:  X, thank you for talking to me. I think my readers need to understand what goes into an Oscar campaign and the ramifications if a studio doesn’t get it right.

X: Whatever. You put my name in there–anything about any movie I was in—and I will sue you. My lawyer’s right there at the next table.

Except for the two of us and the barista, the café is empty.

WNS: It says in The NY Times that Taraji P. Henson wasn’t nominated for best actress in Hidden Figures because she didn’t campaign. Do you think that’s possible?

Amy Adams schmoozing with Patti Smith at a screening of Arrival sponsored by director Spike Jonze and Cinema Society. Unfortunately this promotion didn’t help. She wasn’t nominated for best actress

X: Sure it’s possible. If you don’t make the rounds on the talk show circuit, in the party circuit or put yourself in front of Academy voters in some way, your chances diminish. A couple of years ago, I expected to get nominated in my star turn in one of my movies, but it was an indie and all we had was about $2 million to spare for promotion. They say that big studios usually spend $10 million; independents $3 million.

WNS: What’s the best way to get your movie produced by a major production company?

X: Go to the film fests and seek out a production company. Sundance is always great—you can do a Q&A in a separate venue or introduce the movie. Then you go to the parties. Or to restaurants that you know where the big wigs eat. You get dressed in something stunning that makes you shine, and then you go and subtly beg.

WNS: You have a new movie out. How did it do in Sundance?

X: Not as good as we had hoped. We really wanted Harvey Weinstein’s company to pick it up. He’s a master at promoting his movies. Remember My Left Foot? It’s based on a true story about an Irish man born with cerebral palsy and the only part of his body that he could control was his left foot.

WNS: I remember—it starred Daniel Day Lewis.

X: Right. Harvey promoted Daniel to win best actor: one way was to have Daniel testify before Congress in support of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

WNS: That was all Harvey’s doing?

X: That’s right, but you didn’t hear it from me. He also gave audiences of screeners chocolate feet.

WNS: That’s a little much.

X: True, but it worked.

Daniel Day Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1990 for My Left Foot. It was the first of three Best Actor Oscars. The other two were for There Will Be Blood and Lincoln.

WNS: What about this year, have you seen or heard about any interesting campaigning?

plseX: Well, I don’t want to diss other artists

WNS: Remember, this is anonymous.

X: OK, well, look at Ruth Negga, who is up for best actress (for Loving). I mean look at her! She’s freakin’ adorable! But then think about it. Everywhere you see her, even on talk shows, she’s in the most quirky outfits that she can pull off, and she is also really photogenic. Her personality shines through, more so in her style than her talk show appearances.

I know this because she’s one of my closest friends.

X’s voice gets a little louder.

What? Do you think that it’s a coincidence that she looks absolutely amazing every time she is pictured? Even when she’s in jeans?

WNS: You think that’s part of her Oscar campaign? Really?

X is starting to get hysterical.

X: Were you born yesterday or did you just fall off of a dump truck? She was at all the events leading up to the Oscar nominations; she was so insanely in style that I would have started a Pinterest page about her fashion if someone else hadn’t beaten me to it. You can only imagine what she’ll be wearing during the Phase 2 events. With that Irish brogue, she’s going to be irresistible.

X is blue in the face. This reporter quickly changes the subject.

WNS: Let’s talk about the rules. This year there are new rules for Phase 2 promoting. Quoting the rules:

“academy members may not be invited to or attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote.”

X: That’s fine, but who’s to say that you’re not going to a birthday party for a best actress or best actor nominees? And the people invited happen to be members of the Academy? I mean you have to be careful, but it’s still vague.

WNS: Have people been reported?

X: Yes, by those insane consultants that the movie studios hire. It’s a way to get your opposition flummoxed.

WNS: There other ways of getting around the rules, aren’t there?

They’re oh-so-cute at the Santa Barbara Film Fest

XAbsolutely. There are career retrospectives at museums that happen to be shown during Phase 2; screenings with drinks or parties; actors introduce their movies or appear at more fests such as the one at Santa Barbara.

WNS:  What about Spotlight, last year’s winner for best movie? I heard that they had a panel of its actors moderated by Malcolm Gladwell to give it an intellectual dimension. And that having the actors appear with their real-life counterparts was also a big promotional ploy.

(Spotlight is a true story about Boston Globe’s investigation into the widespread abuse by Catholic priests in Boston and the subsequent exposé.) 

X: You got that right. They wanted to divert the voters’ attention from the Catholic scandal part—even though that’s what the movie was about.

WNS: Apparently it worked.

X: Yup! It won best movie even though Alejandro González Iñárritu won the Oscar for best director of another movie (The Revenant). Leo DiCaprio, who won best actor last year (also for The Revenant) came out of the woodwork to campaign for that one. He never gave interviews on TV until last year, and he was a charmer whenever he appeared, let me tell you. With his stories about acting in freezing weather and eating real bison livers.

WNS: As you also mentioned, a simple way to promote is holding a Q&A with the actors afterward. Seeing a movie with the actors is a much different experience that just seeing the movie in a movie theater.

X: Yup. You get the idea. Listen, this is fascinating, but I need to run. I have to wretch so my clothing fits for a party that Ruth Negga is giving. Joel Edgerton is also going to be there. They’re posing as a real-life couple so that no one knows that it’s a party to promote her nomination for Loving. They’re definitely not going out. But remember, I didn’t say anything. (Joel Edgerton is Negga’s co-star in Loving. Only she is up for an Oscar.)

WNS: Thank you for the interview!

Thank you for reading the interview. Except for the parts that are supported with links, I hope you realize that it’s fiction. Just a fun way to talk about the Phase 2 and Oscar campaigning. 

Woody Harrelson: Artiste Extraordinaire

A couple of best friends making a movie like no other

Woody Harrelson is a pioneer! On Friday, January 19th at 9 PM EST, he livestreamed his movie, Lost in London, in 301 movie theaters, as it was being filmed! It was like live theater, except that the action is in 14 different locations around London. The 100-minute movie was made in one shot with only one camera. It was livestreamed in 300 cinemas in the US, except for one, which was in London, where it was the wee hours of the morning, when its streets were most hospitable to a movie crew.

Woody Harrelson wrote, directed and stars (as fictional Woody Harrelson). Such innovation…yet there are only three reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!

Did critics have better things to do on a Friday night? Did they boycott Woody Harrelson for his well-known lifestyle of pot smoking? Or was it because this innovation was not purveyed by a master auteur of cinéma?

No matter. I had google to back me up and found plenty of reviews.



With a subtitled preface that reads, “Too much of this is true,” Harrelson’s film is a dramatization of the events of a horrible night he experienced in 2002 when he was living in London while starring in a play on the West End. He thought that all of the events of  that night would make for a great  comedy.  He rounded up a cast of 30 that includes Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson, and an additional 320 extras.
Even more ground breaking: SPOILER FREE PREVIEWS! (OK, not so astounding, given there are no filmed scenes to preview.) I saw three previews: one way too long (celebs, ad nauseum tells him he can’t do it), one a tad long (just him holding up silly photos), and one just right (just him).

[Apparently I now have to pay WordPress to embed videos, so I can only give you links.]

The Telegraph 

review by Tim Robey
woodydirectsSpoilers Skimmable: yes. There were very, very few!
Bottom line:  I’ll let the title of the review say it:
Woody Harrelson breaks boundaries with supercharged
Allen-esque live film. 3/5 stars
More: it was very funny!
One thing though: the filming is in real-time, but the story is not. At one point we are asked to believe that a couple of hours have passed. Kind of hard to do when the whole thing is live in one shot.

Vulture (American)

I love this review by Jackson McHenry!!
Spoilers skimmable? Yes. There are many, but you can skim over them.
Bottom Line: It was just OK, but the spectacle was great.
When perfect is boring: McHenry thought it would be cool if there was a mistake in the acting or filming because it would be fun–probably because the audience would be in on it. But it went off without a major hitch, and was even boring in places! When he was bored, he focused on the artistry: “single take films [like Birdman], have been shot before, but Lost in London had to get everything right live.”

Evening Standard (British)

review by Nick Curtis
Spoilers skimmable? No. The whole review is spoilers, except for the subtitle.
Bottom line: movie is meh, but technological livestream accomplishment is “astounding.”
Expectation: Lost in London was better than we could expect a movie from a first-time pot-head-hippie director.

Can’t put this any better: A daft idea, the kind of mad, experimental challenge dreamed up by stoned film nerds after a Hitchcock all-nighter, but one he pulled off with considerable wit and brio.



Although there have been no announcements about a post-live release, says The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmakers “are in discussions” about releasing the movie.


Sherlock Investigates Potential Russian Hack

This just in:

Not to be upstaged by the United States government, the BBC alleges that a hack into their system might be from Russian interference.

Oh really?

The extenuating circumstances: The Russian version of the final episode of this season’s Sherlock was leaked into Russia’s airwaves one day ahead of the scheduled air date last Saturday, 1/14.

Warning: No Spoilers!

In addition to investigating how its files were hacked and by whom, the BBC took special care to prevent viewers of the hacked episode from ruining the mystery for those who would be watching it when it was rightfully released.

Once producers realized that the episode was leaked early, they jumped onto twitter to appeal to those who have seen the episode not to reveal the ending to others. Here’s the tweet from Suevertue:

Russian version of TFP has been illegally uploaded.Please don’t share it. You’ve done so well keeping it spoiler free.Nearly there

Is that name a coincidence? Sue virtue? legally stand up to virtue?

Oh you crazy folks at the BBC.

See The Eagle Huntress

Seems like a good idea: the accolades are endless, except for the one cynical review (bah humbug). The photos are so beautiful that I couldn’t shrink them.


One of the photos that started it all (see below)

Plot: This is actually a documentary. In the remote Altai Mountains of Mongolia, director Otto Bell follows 13-year-old Aishopan, as her father trains her to be Mongolia’s first female eagle hunter. An eagle hunter is someone who snatches up a baby golden eagle from its nest and trains it to hunt foxes and rabbits. The Eagle hunting tradition has been passed down through generations of fathers and sons. The eagle helps the hunter capture rabbits and foxes so that there is enough food on the table.

This movie is being made into an animated film.


review by Ben Murray

Spoilers skimmable? Alas, not at all.

Bottom line: it’s fantastic. “Much more than a documentary, [it’s] a work of art.”

“Stunning cinematography, the flawless and natural way the story develops like a narrative sprung from the most family friendly of Hollywood screenwriters.”

Disney? No, but “were it not set in Mongolia you would almost certainly find it hard to believe that you had not come across this story before.”

the-eagle-huntress-trailer-970x545Little White Lies

review by Rebecca Speare-Cole

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, for the most part.

Bottom line: Excellent. Crispness to the cinematography—Bell dives into eagle POV aerial shots.

A celebration of female empowerment:

The Eagle Huntress is a celebration of female empowerment, boiling down the messy, complex nuances of modern day feminism into one simple idea: women everywhere can relate to Aistolpan’s straightforward belief that it is a woman’s right to choose.

The Naysayer:

Too good to be true?

The Guardian

review by anonymous

Spoiler skimmable? Yes, if you’re careful.

Bottom line: 2/5 stars.

Cynicism deluxe: Let me paraphrase what the reviewer has to say—

They expect us to believe that passion and sheer force of will is what Aisholpan needs? And the score is “suitably exalting.” (I see sarcasm in them thar words.)

I say, yes, Mr. Anonymous, that does seem reasonable.

The crescendo:  “Whether or not the storytelling here is disingenuous, there remains a manipulative quality to the film-making that is, in the end, off-putting.”

LIES: And it doesn’t even tell the truth, points out anonymous.

Let Seattle’s weekly rag, The Stranger, explain.

yesssThe Stranger

review by Suzette Smith

Spoilers skimmable? Yes.

Bottom line: Amazing.

The truth: Standford scholar Adrienne Mayor did the research–there actually was a female eagle hunter before: Princess Nirgidma in the 1920s.

Huntress’ marketing changed from distinguishing Aisholpan as “the first female eagle hunter in Mongolia” to “the first female eagle hunter in 12 generations.”

Does it matter? Not at all: “Those revisions [in marketing] don’t take away from what’s actually important about Eagle Huntress: There are GOLDEN EAGLES that look AWESOME.”

How in the World…

father, eagle, daughter, director, mother at Sundance

…did Otto Bell discover this story? From a BBC photo essay by  Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky. (See photo above.) He had gone into the back country and stumbled upon Aisholpan and her father. Bell emailed him through Facebook and they both went to see the nomads together.

Of interest: Otto Bell filmed part of the movie in -50° and he used drones for the aerial views, as well as a camera fastened to Aisholpan herself. In fact,  on the first afternoon they were there, a camera on her captured her snatching her golden eagle from its nest. (It was not planned.)

His crew was only 3 people.

Since Aisholpan had to train the same moves over and over, Bell was able to edit them into smooth sequences.

This is his first feature. Before this, he was filming ads for an ad agency.

Let the games begin…….

Ladies and gents, it’s a race to the finish–the time when studios enter their films into the Oscar race just in the nick of time, ahead of the 12/31 the deadline.

Many good movies open in December. The Oscar talk has been buzzing around them for so long that I thought that they had already opened, and that I missed them.

Do studios wait to see the competition before they decide whether to release their movies in December, versus releasing them the following year? Sure seems like it.

Well, la de da

The most buzzed-about movies? There’s Lala Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Surely Emma will be a best actress contender, or so I have heard–ad nauseum. It opens December 9th. Then there’s Denzel Washington making his directorial debut with Fences. Well, he will be nominated for best actor, if you ask anyone in the know. It opens December 24th. And today is the opening of Jackie, which showcases guess what? That’s right, an Oscar-worthy performance. This one isf in the person of Natalie Portman. This week I review two movie reviews of Jackie from movie sites that are contenders for the weirdest-name category.


Plot: Jackie is based on an interview of Jackie Kennedy one week after JFK was assassinated, which had an unusual (and hopefully rare) stipulation:  Jackie had control of the content before it was published. In other words, whatever she wanted left out was left out. So parts of the interview have never been seen. This movie is a re-imagining of the unknown parts. The director, Pablo Larraine, is Chilean.


Review by Harvey Karten

Spoilers skimmable? No. Not even a pro can avoid them. The review starts out with good descriptions and then, just when it seems safe, it bites you in the butt.

Bottom line: Grade B. It’s not bad. It “springs to life at moments.” Portman’s performance is Oscar-worthy, says Karten. She’s got the voice down, and her facial expressions tell you what Jackie is feeling.

Compuserve.com? Sounds like the site should sell computers or find another name.

Separated at birth?

Punch, Drunk  Critics

Review by Travis Hopson

Spoilers skimmable: Yes. Good job, Mr. Hopson!

Bottom line: it’s great–” another political masterpiece by Lorrain (the director).”

Cool: Hopson points out that this biopic doesn’t go over what we already know; rather, it “builds upon” our common knowledge about Jackie Kennedy (Onassis), and so the events in the movie are “becoming part of her legacy forever.” (A tad histrionic, if you ask me.)

I love that the movie is not a rehash of the info that is already out there. Reminds me of going to a concert and the band plays their songs exactly as they are on their albums. We could have stayed home and listened to the songs if we wanted to hear them played like that! Give me some variation–that’s why we go to concerts! (Don’t get me started.)

Living in the public eye: Critic Hopson observes that the assassination was a “crippling blow that struck at the heart of our nation during a turbulent time. And while the country ‘suffered openly,’ one person was forced to share her most personal grief with the world, and that was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.”

Life before H.P.

Let’s take a look at the #1 top grossing movie this past weekend and two opposing opinions.




Related image

Plot: 1926 New York City. Newt Scamander, magizoologist (Eddie Redmayne), arrives for a quick stopover on a world tour. He brings with him a briefcase full of fantastic beasts, which is placed in the care of his soon-to-be sidekick, Jacob, a nonmaj (plebeian who can’t perform magic; an American muggle), played by Dan Folger. The creatures escape and the hunt is on. In case you don’t know, this is a prequel to the Harry Potter (HP) movies. JK Rowling wrote the screenplay–her first.

PS The zoologist is writing a book about the beasts–guess what it’s called? Look no further than the name of the movie.

PPS Four sequels (to this prequel) are planned.


Review by Joshua Yehl


Spoilers skimmable? Not at all.

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them

Bottom line: It’s dull. We’ve seen the special effects before-in the Harry Potter movies. The movie does shine, however, when the fantastic beasts are in the spotlight:

“Please, could we just spend our two hours in the briefcase with the beasts?”

Nonmaj Jacob walks through the movie with his eyes wide open, mouth agape in astonishment–he reacts that way after every single feat of magic, says Yehl, although you’d think he’d get used to it after a while.

The director’s fault:
Critic Yehl blames it on the director, David Yates, who actually has directed FOUR Harry Potter movies!

What went wrong:
“static shots [the camera stands still, so the scene doesn’t change], dead air [screen is blank] and obvious  use of green screens [people superimposed over a fake background].”

There will be a quiz on these and other movie terms after the holiday break.

On the other hand–

COS (Consequence of Sound)

Review by Allison Shoemaker

Spoilers skimmable? with care.

Bottom line: B+. It’s a good movie, the special effects are awesome, the directing fantastic. Full of “terrific shots…a delightful adventure…a terrific piece of visual storytelling.”

Adult analogies: Samantha Morten heads a muggle supremacy group; Colin Farrill is a Hitler in the making.

Makes too much sense in today’s world: Shoemaker notes that the fantastical beasts “escaped and must be recaptured, not because they’re a danger to humans, but because we’re a danger to them.”

Only problem: the ending is not so good, which is the director’s fault.

Oh, what to do–to see it or not to see it?

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them

A Personal Film Vault

I’m back from a brief reprieve with a recent discovery–


It’s a Goodreads for movies: you can keep an archive of the movies that you have seen and review them if you want. You fill in 1-5 stars, and write a review if you want.

AND NOW, for the best part: you can be a model citizen and include a warning that there are spoilers! Simply check a box at the end of the form and consider us warned.

This site has my utmost respect. How could it not? It truly appreciates the movie-going experience. 

There is such a large movie data base that there are some very bizarre entries. Take, for example a list of Nunsploitation Films.” Who would have thought that such a fine genre actually exists! (Looks like lots of murderous nuns, with some kinky ones in the mix.)

Here’s a cult movie I found–check out the description, which was in a review:


1979 Directed by Rod Hardy

“Kate is a well-to-do housewife who gets kidnapped by a clan of conservatively dressed vampires who imprison her on their futuristic human cattle farm somewhere in Australia, but they don’t want to drain her [because] Kate is the descendant of an especially regal bloodsucker and the clan wants her to join them, and perhaps even lead them.”

Go on over and create an account. I need some friends to join me!



It’s OK to get Sullied

Most of us know the story: In 2009, US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger–“Sully”–made an emergency landing on the Hudson River six minutes after taking off from LaGuardia airport in NYC. The plane lost complete power when a large number of birds crashed into it. plane-in-water-2The media was all over the story and we learned every last detail. Then we learned all about the ensuing investigation–the media was all over that too. At issue: was the emergency landing in accord with emergency protocol, or did Sully take an unnecessary risk because he wanted to show some swag?

What was it like to lose all control of a commercial flight, heroically save said flight and everyone on it, and then be challenged for your judgment? Sully wrote a book about it called Highest Duty. Now, Clint Eastwood has taken that book and made it into a movie, Sully, starring Tom Hanks.

Here’s a review of a review by Carrie Rickey, the critic I used to rely on for my movie-going decisions when I lived in Philadelphia a long time ago.



(website motto is “drilling beneath the headlines.” )

Review by Carrie Rickey


Sully and First Officer Jeff Skiles

Spoilers skimmable? Absolutely. I’m not sure there are any!

Bottom line: It’s an excellent Eastwood movie:

Watching the characters modulate their answers while being accused of showboating creates the same degree of tension as watching them land a plane without working engines.

Her Analysis: I love what she has to say about the movies that Clint Eastwood directs–they’re great because they never give black-and-white answers.

She explains that this movie explores the nuances of:

personal responsibility, masculinity, the threat of untimely death and the kind of courage plane-in-the-watermistakenly referred to as heroism.

The many shades of Clint: She further says that Eastwood the man fits into as much of a gray area as do most of his movies: “Here is a guy who publicly inveighs against political correctness,” she points out. She explains that he then goes on to make two consecutive movies about the same battle in WW II–one film from the perspective of the American soldiers (Flags of Our Fathers); the other from that of the Japanese (Letters from Iwo Jima), which is completely in the Japanese.

Our due respect:
Carrie Rickey is a critic who respects her audience by engaging us with intelligent critique and enlightening content.

9/11: Rickey observes that the movie’s timing, opening on the eve of 9/11’s 15th anniversary, is apt because it is uplifting–it tells the story of how everyone on board came together to make a dangerous situation turn out well.


But we know that part.



Breaking News: 80% Approval Rating

Southside with you is up 60 points in the polls. With an 80% approval rating, director Richard Tanne can be sure that someone out there will see his movie. Months before the end of the President’s second term, this movie is an ode to the coupling of the Obamas. It is a dramatization of their first date. They walk around the Southside of Chicago, talking a lot.

At issue is the validity of a movie that shows a sitting president to be God-like. Is this, in fact hagiography?  If it is, should it be shown before the beloved leaves office? We posed this question to a group of 12 critics whose numbers have been manipulated to represent a cross-section of the American public.*

We supplied those polled with dictionary.com’s definition of “hagiography”:

noun (pl) -phies
any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject
Derived forms: hagiographic, hagiographical, adjective
We then showed them a YouTube video on how to pronounce Hagiography. Hint: the g is pronounced like the both g’s in “GOOD GOD.”


Simply Adorable!

Bring it on! The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis dryly challenges, in so many words. Declaring the movie hagiography, she points out that it is based on Obama’s recounting of his first date with his future wife in his book, The Audacity of Hope. In a clever twist of words, the review is entitled, In an Obama Biopic, The Audacity of Hagiography?  Surely, someone chuckled.

Could it have been critic  Armond White of The National Review? In an unusual turn of events, the ultra-conservative The National Review and liberal The New York Times align on the hagiography issue. White believes that at the center of the controversy are racial and political undertones. Here’s a mouthful:

...Southside with You is a projection of deracinated black characters, manipulated to support race- and class-based delusions by which the mainstream media and the political elite continue to misunderstand the black condition. Southside with You glorifies political totems who all but walk on water.

(Are the characters deracinated? Save that for someone else’s blog.)


DC or Pyongyang?

Political analysis continues with Britain’s Guardian.com. Critic Jordan Hoffman  draws a parallel to North Korea:

Films glorifying sitting leaders is a little more North Korea’s bag. It is, without question, pure hagiography. That said, by all accounts Barack and Michelle Obama are warm, caring people.

(Can’t help but like that little addendum.)

Obama or JFK?

Thrillist.com’s Matt Patches provides another analogy that hits closer to home:

It’s hagiography, the JFK-ing out of Obama from leader to celebrity.



real walk with meMany of those who believe that Southside with You is not hagiography concede that it comes close, but does not cross the line.

“The movie steers clear of any hagiographical temptations,” opines critic Luca Selada at goldenglobes.com. “In a way the first stepping stone to the Obama legacy–it now includes a love story on film.”

I know, badly put, right?

(Yes, a website devoted to the Golden Globes actually has movie reviews.)

It’s NOT hagiography, agree people across America–namely critics of Slate.com, New York Post,  Northjersey.com, Kansascity.com, and Nola.com (We conjecture that 99% of the nation has never heard of that last one, but it does represent a segment of society.)

Res Ipsa Loquitur

The most compelling argument is from Vulture.com and Collider.com: It cannot be hagiography. Obama smokes practically nonstop in the movie, and a smoker is no angel, let alone a god.

A Real Opinion

Says David Edelstein of Vulture.com: “Southside With You is awkward and unsure, but it wins you over.”

5No Comparison

Many critics compared this movie to Richard Linklater’s trilogy that started with Before Sunrise, where Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy walk all over Paris, talking to each other. The verdict? Michelle and Barack’s conversation is not nearly as in-depth as that of Ethan and Julia.

*100% Margin of error




Ticklish much?

Ever hear of the “Competitive Endurance Tickling Match” in L.A? Not many people had until the the movie Tickled came out.

Daily tickle workouts sculpt the body

Jane O’Brien Media hosts the competition, which takes place in L.A.–send them a photo and you have a 12/1000 chance of getting chosen to be a contestant. Then they will fly you to LA, put you up in a swanky hotel, so that you can compete at their studio. Note: contestants must be male.

The concept’s rather simple: you’re tied to a table while some hunks work on you–ie tickle you–and you try not to laugh. Whoever holds out the longest lasts. Need to see it to believe it? Jane O’Brien Media video tapes each contestant as he embraces the challenge.

Here is a review of a review of Tickled from playbackstl.com (no typo)–And below that is a review of an article about a lawsuit against the directors of the film.



review by Sarah Boslaugh

Topic: By happenstance, New Zealand journalist and film co-director David Farrier landed upon the website of Jane O’Brien Media, at JaneOBrienMedia.com. Go ahead and hit the link. It’s still there. The competition is labelled as “Salaried Reality TV/Movie Projects.”

Farrier was curious. Could there be a story worth reporting? He emailed Jane O’Brien media, asking to speak to them. They replied that they refuse to be interviewed by a gay reporter. Nice. That didn’t stop him from doing the research. Together with his friend Dylan Reeve, he not only researched the competition and Jane O’Brien Media, but also he and Reeve wrote a blog about their findings. Thousands of people around the world read it.

The nastiness continued. Jane O’Brien media sent Farrier emails, first notifying him that they were suing him for defamation and then letting out a torrent of anti-gay, anti-Semitic slurs.

HA! That intrigued Farrier EVEN MORE! If a company was that threatened, there definitely was a story. He asked Reeve to co-direct a documentary with him, and off they flew to L.A. to investigate the “subculture” up close. Initially, they could not find a contestant who would agree to an interview. But gradually some men came out of the woodwork. Turns out the tickling competition is not something that is followed up with pillow fights.There is more than meets the eye to Jane O’Brien media, and it ain’t pretty.

The film takes us along as the co-directors get deeper into their investigation.

Looks like the final round

Spoilers skimmable? No. What you really need to know is in the last paragraph, which does not have spoilers. Only by then it is too late.

Bottom line: It’s excellent– “an attractive and well constructed film…an example of investigative journalism at its finest.”

Boslaugh opines that the structure of the movie–where we learn the info as the co-directors learn it–is perfect because it makes the story credible. The more common construction of documentaries would not have worked:

The traditional style of documentaries: “If it were presented in traditional talking heads and voice of God narration you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

No need for spoilers!!! The review is only three paragraphs long. Yet all that was needed was a little bit of summary from the first paragraph and all of the author’s opinion in the last one.

Her last paragraph is short, but rich with a solid, clear recommendation and the basis for it. And it’s interesting.

Perhaps Boslaugh felt that readers would not be interested if the review was fully devoid of spoilers. Au contraire, Ms. Boslaugh! Get rid of the spoilers and the review becomes even more intriguing.

MORE INFO from Indiewire:

tickeld co-directors
Co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve

I did some research of my own–

Here is an interesting article from Indiewire, written in conjunction with the film’s showing at the Yes/No Fest. Yes/No is held annually in Columbia, MO, and presents the art of nonfiction, as well as whatever is “between fiction and nonfiction.” It’s all very esoteric (completely unclear). I can’t make heads or tails out of its mission. (Maybe I’m just tired.)

‘Tickled’: Why The Online Fetish Doc Was Hit With A Defamation Lawsuit

article by  Chris O’Falt

Spoilers skimmable? No. You think an article just might spare us all. Do not fall into the trap! SO UNFAIR

Fun facts:

  • People who have recognized David Farrier have approached and literally tickled him. O’Falt looks on the bright side:”At least it means they’ve seen the movie.”
  • Since Jane O’Brien media sued Farrier before the film was made, he and Reeve hired two legal aid lawyers to go over every fine detail of the movie.
  • Farrier is moving to LA (not for the tickle subculture).

The tickle competitions just keep going and going: Check out the videos and photos on Jane O’Brien Media’s Facebook page here.

Waiver: the opinions expressed herein do not reflect that of the blogger. They reflect those in the film review and the article.

(The article alludes to J.O.B.’s penchant for lawsuits.)





Fantastic Fingers

FINALLY! A summer flick that’s worth going out to see! Here’s a review of a review from the website awardscircuit.com:


So adorable!
So adorable!

Review by Joey Magidson

Plot: In the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, far from any signs of civilization, a couple brings up their six kids, strictly enforcing their rules. When the movie opens, the mother is sick and in the hospital, and the father is in the woods with the kids. To visit the mother, the father takes his kids out of the wilderness and into civilization.  The movie is a drama, and Viggo Mortensen plays the father.

Spoiler’s skimmable? Yes! This is a good review.

Bottom line: Joey Magidson loves it–a must-see!

Magidson says that this film provides the ultimate movie experience: the acting is phenomenal, and you leave thinking about the issues: is secreting six children away in the wilderness and imposing your own strict rules on them child abuse? good parenting? The film offers no clear answer, according to Magidson:

“When you get right down to it, what we have in Captain Fantastic is really just a fascinating lifestyle character study (if that makes sense).” [his parenthetical, not mine.]

Viggo Mortensen plays the father in a “career best turn.”

Viggo and the kids who play his children

I must stop here and say that Viggo is damn good in every role he plays. So if this is a game changer for him, he must be stunningly perfect in the film. (I use the term stunning as a pun.)

You’ll never guess who wrote and directed it! (Unless you don’t know the TV shows or movies the actor/director has been in. Then you will truly never guess.)

It’s  what’s his name–the guy who always plays nasty characters, some that are funny.

His name is Matt Ross and he plays a weird animal-loving antagonist on HBO’s Silicon Valley. (The character likes to impress the Board of his company by bringing in a different animal for each meeting–he brought in an elephant in the episode I saw.)

They really think they can camouflage the fingers?
Every finger is camouflaged except for those of the two little kids

Magidson says that Ross has played roles in vehicles that range from the film American Psycho (with Christian Bale) to HBO’s comedy, Silicon Valley.

Excuse me? There’s one major role in between those two that is not even mentioned here, which is downright wrong: the weird, evil son of Roman on HBO’s Big Love.

Here he is:

Big MAtt
Writer/director Matt Ross


He’s the latest “It guy” in Hollywood. This film instantaneously became a critic’s darling.


Hey, what happened?
Why even bother?






It really is a drama
It really is a drama

Finding Fish

2013-12-17 09.10.00
Lucy’s friend with benefits (x-rated pic withheld).


My daughter,  on a quick visit from the East Coast, wanted all of us to see Finding Dory on its opening day. I jumped at the chance to be with her and her BF. We’re going in two hours. But before I go, I want to know how low to set my expectations. (Pleasant surprises are always the best experiences.)

Without further ado, here is a review of a movie review of Finding Dory.

Plot: Dory is missing or she doesn’t know where she is. No one needs to know. I forget.

The NY Times

review by A.O. Scott

Help! I can’t contain myself and not review the reviews of The New York Times! But I think this one is kind of interesting.

Spoilers skimmable: Yes! The spoilers are aplenty, don’t get me wrong. But you know the Golden Rule of the NY Times Guidelines: Pretension begets spoilers. Thankfully the sentences and paragraphs begin with plenty of hints.

Example: A paragraph starts like this: “Instead of the open seas, Dory conducts her search….” WARNING WILL ROBINSON! It’s obvious that the very next word is the gateway to spoiler village.

Here she is!

Ladies and Gents, I may have perfected the art of the skim!

Bottom Line: It’s good, but not as good as Finding Nemo.

A.O., pro forma, starts his review with superfluous context–he pulls off reviewing a movie within a review of another movie:

Finding Nemo is “Pixar’s 2003 masterpiece”: A.O. extolled F.N. as brilliant in its technical innovation, resulting in “beautiful” visuals.

OK, I think that it’s interesting that Finding Nemo was a revelation in technology and filming, but was it a masterpiece for any other reason?

He continues his thought: “The movie,” he says, is “a visual revelation, was also a welcome defense of risk-taking in an era of anxiety, and something of a cautionary tale about the downsides of helicopter parenting.”

Really? Era of Anxiety? Story with a moral? The father was neurotic and overbearing. But did that cause the son get lost? Seriously.Did it? I forget.

Last point:

A.O.’s disrespect for fish with disabilities:  A.O. Scott calls Dory “absent minded.” Really? Swim with her and suddenly she forgets what transpired in the last few minutes; that’s not simply absent minded–it’s some sort of cross-wiring in the brain, and it’s endearing.

Oh A.O. Scott and The New York Times, thank you for so much fodder for this blog, but next post, I must move on.



SIFF Decision #1

It’s that golden time of year: when the daylight lingers past 9:30 PM, and SIFF is here! SIFF: Seattle International Film Festival. The largest film fest on this continent–that no one has ever heard of. There are many, many films in this fest, both good and bad.  The decision as to what movies to see has racked me with angst. What if I miss a unique opportunity to ask a director a Q? What if the movie will  never wash ashore on our continent again?

Luckily there are critics to help me decide what to see. Many of the films have already opened in other countries and played in previous international fests, like those of Toronto and Venice.

My first decision and the review that I found. Shall I watch this movie?


Plot: A newlywed Palestinian woman picks up a hitchhiker who later turns out to be involved in a terrorist bombing. Although she had no idea what the boy was about to do, she is jailed for being complicit in the crime. She is pregnant and the baby is born in jail. The movie takes place during a turbulent era in that region (as if there are non-turbulent times), the 1980s.

Middle East Eye 

Review by unknown critic

Spoilers skimmable? No. Plain and simple.

Bottom Line: It is excellent.

Of interest: Movie is based on interviews of Palestinian women about Israeli jails, conducted by Mai Masri, the Palestinian director3-000-nights-poster.

Palestinian actors play all of the characters, both Israeli and Palestinian. Syrian refugees were extras in the movie–playing prisoners.

The movie was filmed in an old Jordanian prison; most actors had been in jail themselves, or are connected to someone who was. It was painful for them to film and sounds painfully sad for the audience  to watch.



 What is the Middle East Eye?

It is an online news source that professes to tell unbiased news from the Middle East.

Fascinating: I found a list of five movies on this site that “will help you understand the Modern Arab World.”

silvered waterAn  intimate view of the Syrian Uprising. One such film is Silvered Water, which you can find on youtube. It is comprised solely of videos that eyewitnesses filmed with their cell phones and anonymously uploaded to social media, some with narration.

Defiance in Art. The article points out that Silvered Water is a “video archive” as well as “a form of defiance–searching for cinematic beauty in blurry mobile phone images as a resistance to tyranny and death.”