Author: Adam Schaefer

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Eighth Grade – Loving Doesn’t Always Include Liking
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Eighth Grade – Loving Doesn’t Always Include Liking

I really want to believe the father Mark (Josh Hamilton). There he is pouring his heart out, trying to convince his daughter Kayla (Elsie Fisher) that, despite her very reasonable fears, she makes him happy. If I can believe him in this moment, then most concerns I have of being a parent are erased. That chief concern being how terrible it would be if your kid, who you are helplessly attached to, sucks. So again, I really want to believe him.

Continue reading

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Courageous Choices
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Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Courageous Choices

Gunshots and car chases don’t usually produce beauty. There may be touching scenes mixed in with the action – a child being saved or true loves being reunited – but these moments are mere respites rather than standalone products; the transition from relentlessness to the careful attention required for true beauty is simply too hard.

Mission Impossible: Fallout grappled with the quandary of a human life’s value: should individuals be disposable if that disposability saves a greater number of lives? If it’s really a certainty like press this button and kill a single person or press this other button and kill millions, the answer seems obvious. Life, though, is devoid of this level of certainty. Continue reading

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Fake Arguments
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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Fake Arguments

Kids, like adults, are special, important and unique.

Of course someone would dispute this. Of course someone would actually blame Mr. Rogers’ philosophy for the demise of today’s youth. And of course these people would be doing what’s become increasingly popular – arguing against someone for something that person doesn’t actually believe. Continue reading

Incredibles 2 – Winning While Losing
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Incredibles 2 – Winning While Losing

This is not about winning an argument through exhaustion. You know, the type of “victory” so many claim these days after yelling louder than an opponent, the opponent disengaging, and the screamer becoming, alarmingly, convinced of his/her own superiority on account of the disengagement.

Incredibles 2 was about an actual victory, even if the film fought hard against acknowledging it as such. Continue reading

Song to Song – Universal Needs
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Song to Song – Universal Needs

I need to rewatch Song to Song.

That thought filled my head as the film concluded. Song to Song was beautiful, immersive, intimate, moving, and yes, a little weird, in ways that few films are. Those facts alone are not enough to compel a rewatch. This one is: Song to Song contained themes that provided me that feeling that fuller absorption would teach something important about life.

So I rewatched and yup, that feeling was accurate.  Continue reading

Black Panther – Education’s Limits
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Black Panther – Education’s Limits

Thinking how to think is a primary benefit of a good education. You might never have to use the Pythagorean theorem again, but those math problems involved a level of learning that will, in fact, be used again.

Like how to control your emotional response when something is a bit challenging and/or frustrating and/or pointless. Continue reading

The Way, Way Back – Solving Loneliness
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The Way, Way Back – Solving Loneliness

First get a handle on safety, hunger and health. Then deal with loneliness.

Because if you can solve loneliness after knocking out the first three, what more do you really need? “Love” you may say. “Meaning” you may say. “Purpose” you may say.

I say those are just manifestations of anti-loneliness. Take love for instance. Take a single moment. If you really, truly feel loved in that moment, can you feel lonely? I say “no.” Continue reading

I, Tonya – Taxes and Domestic Violence
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I, Tonya – Taxes and Domestic Violence

Poor people aren’t necessarily voting against their own self-interest when they support tax cuts for the rich.

America is built on the idea that individuals can build themselves a better future. Even if social mobility has declined, that fundamental ideal remains. With it in place, one can believe that his/her current tax bracket isn’t static, so a vote for lower taxes across the board could very well be beneficial for that voter in the future. (Note:  Basically all tax cuts “for the rich” are just across-the-board tax cuts; it’s not as if marginal rates are being raised on people in the $9,326 – $37,950 bracket while being cut for people in the highest bracket. In an environment of general reductions, of course rich people benefit since they pay so much tax. For instance, in 2014 the top 1% paid 45.7% of income taxes. This is more than the entire bottom 90% combined.) Continue reading

Fifty Shades – Risks, Just Not Sexual Ones
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Fifty Shades – Risks, Just Not Sexual Ones

You ignore someone and it’s totally fine. Not ideal, but not the end-of-the-world either. Someone starts talking about, say delayed public transportation, and your mind begins wandering because that’s what minds do when the current subject isn’t interesting enough. We all do this on a daily basis. Continue reading

The Phantom Thread – Why People Are Frustrating
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The Phantom Thread – Why People Are Frustrating

There’s a single, simple reason that other people frustrate us. It’s really the same reason we frustrate ourselves, but it doesn’t feel the same when directed at others. No, our frustration toward others is about altruism, morals, respect, decency or any number of dressings that makes the frustration feel good in ways that self-loathing rarely does. Continue reading

The Post – Unrealized Potential
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The Post – Unrealized Potential

The Post was the movie equivalent of the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers acquired two all-stars in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash before the season. That meant a starting line-up of Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Howard and Nash. That meant the Lakers appeared to be headed for a fantastic season. Continue reading

Molly’s Game – Integrity is for Anyone
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Molly’s Game – Integrity is for Anyone

Endless entertainment is derived from watching people do things we wish we could do. In sports, it’s the physical things. In celebrity, it’s the aesthetic things. In art, it’s the creative things. And in business, it’s the bold things.

To the relief of viewers, an element of this wishing is guilt-free; one may long to jump like Lebron James, but it’s easy to console oneself with the correct logic that ‘Bron ‘Bron was bestowed with special gifts at birth that almost nobody else possesses. Continue reading

Bending the Arc – The Vitality of Emotional Decisions
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Bending the Arc – The Vitality of Emotional Decisions

Emotional decision-making (EDM) has become a pejorative in an era of efficiency and logic; in the quest for optimal, there is little room for something amorphous like “emotion.”

So we ridicule those, including ourselves, who make emotional decisions. As if possessed by a demon, we explain away errors with gosh I’m sorry that I wasn’t thinking – I was just being emotional. We react like these emotions aren’t “me,” and since they aren’t “me,” there is no control. Let’s be clear: this type of thinking and decision-making is worthy of condemnation. Continue reading

Call Me by Your Name – Pain > Nothing
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Call Me by Your Name – Pain > Nothing

English teachers everywhere rejoice! Somebody has fully absorbed the lesson of show, don’t tell. And that somebody is director Luca Guadagnino and the original writer André Aciman of Call Me by Your Name. 

Teenagers, and to a lesser extent all humans, occupy two competing spaces simultaneously. At once they want to discuss and figure out their extreme emotional states. At the same time, though, they want to project confidence and thus avoid vulnerable topics. To adult observers, this confidence is often seen as the thin veneer it is. Since these observations aren’t usually shared, the gap between how a teenager views himself and how the world views him can be quite large. Again, this is true for people of all ages, but teenagers are living with such unprecedented feelings that the peaks and valleys are greater than they will probably ever be. Continue reading

Coco – Why Family Matters
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Coco – Why Family Matters

Give us the colors (see below), the charm and a nicely packaged ending from a Pixar studio that is known for delivering important messages dressed down as kid’s films, and it’s so easy to get sucked in. Coco just said something meaningful about family.  Continue reading

Depth Perception – Fool Me Twice
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Depth Perception – Fool Me Twice

It must be kind of annoying to be popular for certain things and yet to want to be more than just those things. It’s the band with monster hits that would rather play their new, introspective songs instead of decades-old singles.

Crowds can understand that artists evolve. Thus they will tolerate those new songs that never quite reach the peak of the old stuff so long as the artistic indulgences don’t break the unspoken covenant made at the moment of ticket purchase: the band is going to play the hits. Continue reading

Thor: Ragnarok – Regret Averted
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Thor: Ragnarok – Regret Averted

It’s one of the worst forms of regret. You prejudge something as unappealing. But a wave of people who actually experienced the thing you prejudged say that something is great. You respect these people. So you take their judgments over your prejudgement and go see Thor: Ragnarok. Continue reading

Lady Bird – Stressed Greatness
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Lady Bird – Stressed Greatness

Consider how much stress you feel on a daily basis. No, not the overwhelming what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life stress. Just the low hum that’s present in mindless, everyday living. Like when you think you are going to miss a train. Or when the checkout line is just a tad longer than expected. Or when someone wants to “split” a dinner bill even though he had three $14 cocktails to your none and you kinda want to say something but you don’t want it to be awkward. Continue reading

Spider-Man: Homecoming – The Strong Logic Behind the Endless Run of Superhero Movies
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Spider-Man: Homecoming – The Strong Logic Behind the Endless Run of Superhero Movies

In certain respects, writing a love song is harder than writing a song about trash collection. So much has already been said about love that there’s a vanishingly small chance of saying or doing something truly original. This invites a level of expectation – love songs give me goosebumps – and comparison – that song was good, but not as good as that other love song – that challenges the most talented of artists. Continue reading

The Florida Project – The Truth About Disney Endings
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The Florida Project – The Truth About Disney Endings

Mooney was the funniest character I’ve encountered in 2017. For the first half of The Floria Project I laughed in every scene. That’s really not an exaggeration. Mooney so confidently captured the whimsical innocence of childhood summers that her lawlessness was charming instead of disturbing. Unfortunately, that would not last (see CRY below). Continue reading

Blade Runner 2049 – Love Lessons
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Blade Runner 2049 – Love Lessons

I am so complicated. A “simple” decision about what I’ll eat for dinner can be explained in no less than seven single-spaced pages of thoughtful prose.

But other people? Oh, I know exactly why they do what they do. I also know what they should do. Continue reading

Metallica: Through the Never – Wait, This Isn’t a Movie
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Metallica: Through the Never – Wait, This Isn’t a Movie

There was a time, not long ago, when the biggest bands were loud and angry virtuosic displays of guitar riffage played with screamable, trivial lyrics.

Now we get a bunch of people who can’t play instruments and “rock” bands that don’t actually rock. These headliners from New York City’s premiere summer music festival are a tragedy for anyone fond of that time not long ago (Nine Inch Nails is obviously fantastic – a true rock band led by a true rockstar – but their first album was released in 1989.): Continue reading

Atomic Blonde – Could Care Less
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Atomic Blonde – Could Care Less

Atomic Blonde wants you to care. But you won’t. You’ll know that something went wrong with the mission and that someone is a double agent. These facts may be semi-intriguing at the beginning; they are irrelevant by the end. As in you won’t even muster a reaction when “important” people die and twists are unveiled.

Sometimes you care about a story’s characters. Other times you don’t. Which camp a story falls into, more than just about anything else, determines if the story is good. Continue reading

Everybody Wants Some!! – Know What You Are
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Everybody Wants Some!! – Know What You Are

It’s two in the morning and you aren’t entirely sober. It’s the point in the night when pizza becomes far more appealing than another drink at the bar.

So you and your roommates grab food and retreat home. After finishing the food and debriefing the night, most are still not ready for sleep. The conversation turns to life philosophy. With the relaxed inhibitions induced by alcohol and fatigue, the conversation seems more real; it seems like you are solving big, important matters. Continue reading

The Big Sick – Stand for Something
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The Big Sick – Stand for Something

There he is. The most racist, despicable man you can imagine. You want to say something. You have to say something.

Instead, you wait to act and continue eavesdropping on his conversation:  “You will break up with him immediately. I never want to see you with him ever again. I give you a lot of freedom Catherine, but bringing a black boy around here is unacceptable.” Continue reading

The Red Pill – Losing Arguments by Default
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The Red Pill – Losing Arguments by Default

“I can’t even imagine.” (So sad to see that my 5-year-old has a better imagination than you. It must be tough being so narrow-minded. It must also be tough having such a terrible short-term memory that you can’t imagine how the other side might think when I just told you what they think.)

“This isn’t even a question.” (Actually, this is, which – crazy, I know – would explain why I just asked you the question.) Continue reading

Operator – It’s Fair to Question
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Operator – It’s Fair to Question

There are things other people know that you will never be able to truly know. This reality suggests caution, even silence, for any unknowers considering challenges to the knowers.

But we can’t help ourselves. You see that co-worker hobbling a little less than you imagine someone with a broken ankle should be hobbling, and your mind races to theorize that the “broken ankle” is a lame excuse to get out of work.

If you express these feelings publicly, you’ll surely be met with what appears to be an impenetrable defense: “You can’t know how I feel. I’m in so much pain. You’d never understand.” Continue reading

The Seeker – Peace Through Acceptance
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The Seeker – Peace Through Acceptance

They say the first part of solving a problem is identifying it. Unfortunately, “they” are proving to be quite incorrect when it comes to everyday mental struggle.

There is no shortage of people who accurately and eloquently enumerate the ways in which the voices-in-your-head lead to stress. Here’s the band Cloud Cult, the creators behind The Seeker, enumerating these ways in “Room Full of People in Your Head”: Continue reading

Baby Driver – Stick to Music
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Baby Driver – Stick to Music

I don’t want a concert. I don’t want Sonos. I don’t want earbuds on the subway.

If I’m given one chance to consume music, I want to be in a car, with the windows down, and my hands alternating between shifting gears, air drumming, air strumming, and steering.

Baby Driver captured the powerful joy of music in this environment. Continue reading

Spring Breakers – Escaping Escapism
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Spring Breakers – Escaping Escapism

Barring some sort of apocalypse, the day is coming when virtual reality will be more compelling than reality; when you only ever exit a fake world for food and sleep.

This already happens in a lesser form as millions of people spend millions of hours locked inside the current iteration of video games.

This seems bad. Certainly to the adults who beseech their children to “go get some fresh air,” and even to the gamers who experience social consequences from the habit. If given the choice between success in the “real world” and success in a video game, I can’t imagine many would choose the latter. Continue reading

Moonlight – Where Have All The Fathers Gone?
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Moonlight – Where Have All The Fathers Gone?

Focus on what’s controllable. It’s good advice for life. It’s also good advice for artists hoping to stir inspiration in an audience.

That’s why so much art that covers the great disparity between blacks and whites in America focuses on drugs, crime, education and discrimination (DCED). The audience simultaneously feels terrible about the situation while being led to believe it’s not entirely hopeless. Inspiration hits as one’s thoughts are consumed with all the ways the situation can be less terrible.  Drug policy can be changed. Mandatory minimums can be adjusted. We can pour more money into inner-city schools and staff them with talented teachers. Yea. Yea. Yea. And we can all be more aware of our racial biases and shift them. Continue reading