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

Passengers – Almost Good
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Passengers – Almost Good

It’s a tactic that almost always works. That “almost” qualifier is necessary because of movies like Passengers.

There are no shortage of reminders urging us to “know thyself,” and the value of this advice goes undisputed. The problem, as is true with many life maxims, is in the embodiment. Do I really have to read Plato? Do I really have to meditate? Do I really have to keep a journal? Knowing myself sounded cool right up until the point when I realized it would require so much hard work. Continue reading

Cool Hand Luke – Old Movies Suck
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Cool Hand Luke – Old Movies Suck

Why do old movies suck so much? If you are given a book with a hidden publication date, it wouldn’t be that easy to correctly guess the era of writing. Good stories in 1890 look a lot like good stories in 1990.

For reasons I can’t understand, the same cannot be said of movies. I repeatedly find the storytelling in “classic” films stunningly inferior. Continue reading

One and Not Done – Debates That Shouldn’t Exist
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One and Not Done – Debates That Shouldn’t Exist

There are debates that persist because smart, well-intentioned people exist on both sides. These debates are useful in a world that strives to progress.

Then there are the debates that persist because one side cares more about institutions than freedom and will fight against logic just to preserve power. These debates are most annoying because no debate should be necessary – we already know the correct answer. Continue reading

Arrival – Full Comprehension Not Necessary
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Arrival – Full Comprehension Not Necessary

THINK

Art in its best form makes you work. In this form the work is joy-filled, even if obtaining answers is hard. Even if obtaining concrete answers never actually happens.

Lesser forms of art will still create work, but it only inspires annoyance and frustration.

Ending up on the right side of this delicate balance is a storyteller’s great challenge. Success is found by building trust with an audience. Just as trusting that a better diet will yield a better figure motivates one to put in diet “work,” if an audience trusts that thinking hard about a movie will result in a worthwhile payoff, movie “work” is worth pursuing. Continue reading

Ghost in the Shell – Trying to Focus on What Is
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Ghost in the Shell – Trying to Focus on What Is

THINK

Ghost in the Shell was Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love – nothing more or less than solid. We are justified in craving Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love from our movies, but that craving shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating a lesser version.

The problem is that it does. You’ve seen Kevin Love play for the Timberwolves. You know what is possible. And that possibility curses us to endlessly critique and wonder why we aren’t getting more. Continue reading

Logan – Moral Incompetence
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Logan – Moral Incompetence

I totally get why someone would choose to kill 1000 innocent lives instead of the life of a single loved one. But at the earliest opportunity, that someone should be killed.

Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men in Logan are this morally compromised someone. I get why they aren’t presented as evil, but could we get just a little gray area? Even as Professor X injures hundreds in Las Vegas due to a mind that has been correctly classified as a WMD? Why, again, are we cheering for these mutants? If only there was an Uncle Ben appearance to remind them what comes with great power.
Continue reading

Becoming Warren Buffett – Being Better Than Jesus
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Becoming Warren Buffett – Being Better Than Jesus

Jesus is problematic for many reasons. One of those reasons is that they didn’t stop at “Jesus.” By adding “Christ,” by intentionally making him a human deity, falling short of his standard became entirely defensible. Where there are few substantial excuses for failing to live up to a role model of similar likeness, a sibling for instance, there are endless excuses for failing to live up to a god. Continue reading

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse

   

Lots of mythic-based action movies start off with that “ancient scene,” like The Mummy. There are usually armies, pyramids, chanting, magic of some variety, and something happens that leaves a relic behind, only to be discovered after the 20th century. I liked The Mummy. That scene fit in with the rest of the movie. It setup the love story between Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun and the curse and resurrection that would become the basis for the rest of the movie. Continue reading

Get Out

Get Out

    

Critics love genre-blending films, given the film blends the right ones. Dramedies and rom-coms are a dime a dozen, but the com-hor, or horredies, are still few and far between. They tend to bend in one direction too far, like Shawn of the Dead or the Evil Dead series, to still be considered horror to me. Continue reading

The Founder

The Founder

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THINK

Don’t ask “How was it?” when a friend returns from vacation. Even though it’s well-intentioned, and even though you may genuinely care about the verdict of the trip, it’s the wrong question to ask. Continue reading

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Searching for Bobby Fischer

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 CRY

It’s hard to imagine that any parent wouldn’t want it to happen. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard when it actually does happen – when a child becomes smarter, stronger, faster and/or better than the parent. Continue reading

The Color of Money

The Color of Money

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THINK

You are confronted with a choice that will forever alter your life:

  1. Flip a coin. “Heads” means you win $1 million. “Tails” means you win nothing.
  2. Don’t play the game and accept a guaranteed sum of money (“X”) that is less than $500,000.

Continue reading

An Emotional Year (2016) at the Movies

An Emotional Year (2016) at the Movies

 

You see all these movies (31) and yet it’s hard to remember many of them. Some films seemed so great and so important in the moment only to quickly fade into nothingness. It’s this exact phenomenon that’s one of the driving forces behind Think Laugh Cry; just because you can’t instantly recall something doesn’t mean it didn’t affect you, and by documenting its consumption, the long-lasting emotional effect is easier to maintain and understand. Continue reading

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

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CRY

It’s nice to not be fed some unrealistic redemption story. Some people can’t get over death. Some people can’t get over unconscionable mistakes. But given films like Manchester by the Sea as the alternative to a Disney ending, it’s easy to see why most filmmakers choose the Disney route. Continue reading

Music and Lyrics

Music and Lyrics

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LAUGH

When the first scene in a movie is the best scene in a movie, it can seem like such a good thing at the time: Wow! That scene was great. That scene was funny. This movie is going to be fantastic.  Continue reading

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

   

THINK

Star Wars films aren’t supposed to make you think. That’s the beauty of them – the greatest question in each film is who will win the battle of good v evil? You could argue that good won in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi and Continue reading

La La Land

La La Land

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THINK

It was there for the taking. Greatness and chasing dreams are topics worthy of nearly endless thought, and given that La La Land was about these very topics, a THINK was all but assured.

Then it never happened. Yes, the acting was great. Yes, it was all a lot of fun. No, La La Land didn’t offer new takes on “trying to make it” or even offer a different perspective from what is so often conveyed in these types of movies: just work harder and you’ll succeed. Continue reading

The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen

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LAUGH

The Edge of Seventeen  falls far short of the standard set by recent coming-of-age stories that were actually enjoyable.

Did it still bring some laughs? Yea, yea it did. But don’t give any of that credit to the protagonist Nadine who was a realistic portrayal of an annoying, unlikable high schooler – annoying, unlikable high schoolers aren’t funny. Continue reading

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

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LAUGH

Girls are simply less funny than guys. Attribute this to social standards that have only started to really change in the last half century. Societies and norms were mostly built by men (they were/are in power), and humor (apparently) is one of those norms. Continue reading

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge

  

THINK

Sometimes the way you view a movie depends on factors other than the quality of the film itself. Like a reboot that didn’t live up to its predecessor (see Ghostbusters) or a director who was accused of a crime years before his film is released and it tanks because of that (see Birth of a Nation). It’s hard to watch Tom Cruise now and not think he’s crazy, or see an old film with suble racist undertones and not look at it different in today’s social climate. I try my best to look at a film for what’s on screen, but I do have predilections for certain directors, and – surprisingly – one that I always give the benefit of the doubt is Mel Gibson. Surprisingly because I’m Jewish and he’s said some nasty things about my culture, but like any movie fan, I believe in comeback stories. Continue reading

The Fourth Phase

The Fourth Phase

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THINK

Transformative life philosophy can come from anywhere. It cannot, however hard The Fourth Phase may try, come from this film.

And oh how Travis Rice tried.

The Fourth Phase amounted to a lesson in the terrible things that happen when one strains to sound profound; being profound doesn’t come from extra effort. Continue reading

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

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THINK

I think I need to live in Oklahoma or West Texas. There was plenty else to consider in Hell or High Water, but that thought was the most persistent. I’m fascinated by the vistas, the temperature, the community, the manual labor, the clothes, the ruggedness and the types of people who live there.

But maybe those reasons will be letdowns. Continue reading

American Honey

American Honey

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CRY

Cocky and smart (i.e., Donnie Dark) is cool. Cocky and funny (i.e., Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day) is cool. Cocky and talented (i.e., Steve Prefontaine in Without Limits) is cool. Cocky and stupid is not. And American Honey was filled almost exclusively with characters who were cocky and stupid. Continue reading

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

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THINK

Art doesn’t need to provide answers. But if art is to be successful in making audiences think about the questions it poses (and ignore the lack of answers), that art must be compelling enough to keep the audience engaged. If the art veers too much into the “What the hell does any of this mean?” and remains boring while doing it, nobody will be around at the end to ponder much of anything. Continue reading

Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL

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LAUGH

“Trying too hard” is an interesting insult. We want great performances, but we want those performances to appear natural – in certain ways we value the kid who got a “95” without studying more than the kid who pulled an all-nighter to capture the same grade.

What’s missed in this paradigm is that seeming natural is very much the product of trying too hard. Yes, some people are naturally predisposed to be good at certain things. But most of what we witness is merely a kid who seems like he didn’t have to study, but has actually been trying extremely hard through endless practice/repetition to give that very appearance. Continue reading

Weiner

Weiner

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THINK

Weiner posed so many questions. The major driving one, from which all the other questions stemmed, was this: What explains really smart people doing reckless things?

Weiner didn’t provide a definitive answer because there isn’t a clean, obvious one. The film did, however, force one to think about the many possibilities. Continue reading

War Dogs

War Dogs

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THINK

War Dogs is not an especially novel story. The execution is in no way unique either. Yet, War Dogs made me think about the massive hustle-your-way-to-riches genre in a different light.

And really, this mental breakthrough should’ve always been obvious. It’s the journey, not the destination. I get that. But for some odd reason I never properly linked that message to films of this variety. Continue reading

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

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THINK

You have to kill a person. You have two choices.

  1. Kill a 3-year-old
  2. Kill a 30-year-old

This isn’t really a hard question, and yet it seems that some irrational emotion tugs toward the poor choice. Continue reading