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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demolition

Demolition

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THINK

While some may find certain plot devices in Demolition as striving too hard to say something grand, they all seemed quite realistic to me, and the film, in fact, accomplished a certain grandness as a result.

There simply shouldn’t be a “realistic” response to death. It’s relatively rare, unpredictable and enormously significant – getting “reps” dealing with it are some of the hardest and least desirable reps to obtain. Continue reading

Lucy

Lucy

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THINK

He just had to know. Even if we hadn’t just dealt with the “humans only use 10% of their brains” myth in Bradley Cooper’s Limitless, early on in constructing the plot of Lucy, director Luc Besson must have discovered that the entire premise of his film was not remotely based in science. Continue reading