Trifectas

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Short

The Big Short

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THINK

We humans would never want to admit it, but there is a powerful internal craving that guides our actions in direct contradiction to our stated desires.

Freedom is great. Independence is great. Authority is bad. From the earliest of ages, these are the types of simplistic overarching philosophies which encounter very little disagreement.

The kids who rebelled against teachers and parents (i.e. authority) were the cool kids. And even those who did follow orders were still encouraged to always “think outside the box.”

This hierarchy – where dependency is clearly at the bottom – is only further reinforced with age. After all, “being your own boss” is seen as the pinnacle of work setups. Continue reading

Spotlight

Spotlight

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THINK

Inertia is so powerful. The status quo is so powerful. Somewhat obviously, the more entrenched both of these forces are, the harder it is to change. In a certain way, those arguing against a large government are fighting against this reality. In no uncertain way, those arguing for the lean startup culture as opposed to huge corporations are aware of how frighteningly immune big things are to evolution.

Considering that we are living on a dynamic planet inhabited by dynamic individuals, we need our institutions, governments and our corporations to be adaptable. Continue reading

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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THINK

An hour before watching Me and Earl and the Dying Girl I was at a high school pep rally. Sitting in the stands watching the pep rally’s disorganization unfold, I was thrust into full-on nostalgia/reflection mode. So I was perfectly primed for this film which was about high school students.

It has to be considered one of the most fruitless endeavors we all attempt. Just hang around high school for a day and you’ll see it happen: people with perspective trying to give others that same perspective. Continue reading

Dope

Dope

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THINK

I have a suspicion I just can’t shake; a suspicion that the generic and cartoonish aspects of this film (i.e. almost the entire middle section) were somehow a brilliantly strategic way to emphasize the thesis.

Dope did contain a genuinely thought-provoking thesis worthy of emphasis. It was encapsulated in a useful thought-exercise: if trying to judge whether a garment is fake, you don’t actually examine the garment, you merely examine the person wearing it. Continue reading

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

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THINK

Serena and Venus Williams’ father is crazy. Or he’s not. When his daughters were not yet teenagers, he apparently told all who would listen that his girls would be tennis champions. It’s the type of proclamation made by people who are mentally unhinged.

Then, in what has to be the best sports story of the last 25 years, it actually happened. Continue reading

Inside Out

Inside Out

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THINK

I recently became partially convinced that I would never really be sad. Sometimes I’ve even longed for tragedy to strike just so I could test this theory. I’m still waiting since nothing really bad has ever happened to me. Part of this is the truth of my privileged life and part of it is my ability to avoid perpetual states of self-pity. I have come to view this as a gift, a gift which I was given through the luck of genes and environment. Continue reading

Wild

Wild

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THINK

If you want to think, go hiking. Days in modern America are filled with endless plans and choices. From the trivial to the mundane to the seemingly important, the mind is saturated with desires and ways to quench them. Since hiking offers so few opportunities to choose (how many miles will I do today? Will I eat all the peanut butter, or merely 80% of it?), the mind is left to wander down a capricious path that can be both exhilarating and demoralizing. Perhaps it is this very reality that makes modern choices so comforting – we are able to reign in our minds to focus on a task so as to avoid the potential pitfalls of “thinking too much.” Continue reading

Vally Uprising

Vally Uprising

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THINK

More than anything this documentary made me think about living freely in nature and striving to be the very best at the things you are most passionate about.

A reminder from this film:  Humans are incredible.  As the documentary follows the history and evolution of rock climbing I am reminded of the eagerness of mankind to always be looking for the next challenge.  We can argue about the routes we take and the way we do it, but everyone is trying to get to the top of the rock. Continue reading

Erin Brockovich
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Erin Brockovich

I overjudge people based on formal education level. Yeah, I’m still taking the kid who scored a 1500 over the high-school dropout if I know nothing else, but I’m not losing anything by approaching the “undereducated” with an openness that they may not only be smart, but smarter than me. Naturally we value in others our areas of strength and this leads to a lot of close-mindedness from people who claim to be just the opposite. I don’t pretend that shedding these preconceived notions, which are based on very real and very correct experiences, will be easy. But I only see upside in trying.

Erin Brockovich also served as another useful reminder of how markets fail. When the reward of immoral/fraudulent acts is too high without commensurate punishment, “cheating” will occur.

“Erin Brockovich” made me THINK.

Is this the best comedic performance ever by a woman? I struggle to find a superior one. Basically anytime Erin unleashed her full personality it was nothing short of spectacular and laughable in the best possible way. All encounters with the corporate law firm, the “numbers” monologue and arguments with her own law firm all come to mind. There were some really legit one-liners like “ugly shoes” that just killed.

“Erin Brockovich” made me LAUGH.

This is not merely a recognition of emotional moments, but rather an acknowledgement of genuine tears. And it’s not just from the fantastic delivery of the settlement news, it was just about every time Erin’s genuine passion and sympathy for the plight of plaintiffs materialized. Like that moment when P&G offers $30 million and Erin just murders them. Or when she lists off phone numbers. These were scenes I will watch again on YouTube at some point in the future because they delivered the laughs (as addressed above) and tears. I stand here recognizing the brilliance of this rare double emotion feat.

“Erin Brockovich” made me CRY.

We are the Best!

We are the Best!

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THINK

This movie so perfectly encapsulates the emotional highs and lows of being a pre-adolescent. The feeling of invincibility when things are going well, the feeling that you are so smart and so important and so in touch with a reality adults can’t possibly appreciate. Then there are the irrational, at least from an adult’s perspective, nadirs caused by the slightest of slights. The world is over because of a haircut. It’s over.

I actually remember crying after bad haircuts. Just going crazy and yelling at my mom for making me get one. Then cascading into regret for not requesting the proper razor number or giving better instructions. Everything in We are the Best! was so authentic I couldn’t help to constantly THINK about days when I was young. And that for me is almost always an enjoyable exercise – it was no different this time around.

LAUGH

The dad killed every single scene. His daughter, Klara, was elite too. I can’t even remember a specific moment that stood out from her, it was simply a steady stream of humor.

CRY

I loved my childhood and so my focus is almost exclusively on the good times. This movie forced me to think about all the angst associated with growing up, a time when reading into every single thing was such a terrible science. I also was filled with a bit of regret for not doing more for outcasts. Man, that must have sucked so much to be friendless, and while there were times when I reached out, I didn’t use my social credibility enough.

Chef

Chef

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THINK

I still have not seen a handful of critically acclaimed films from 2014, but to date, Chef, is my favorite film of last year. (currently available on Netflix)

There were two very important words this film made me think of, a concept I’ve discussed with my fellow ThinkLaughCry reviewer in the past – creating culture.  And this is just what chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) and his pal Martin (John Leguizamo) set out to do when they quit their jobs working for “the man” in a famous LA restaurant and set off to Miami to start their own food truck business.

Chef has a modern feel, a good soundtrack, and a great cast.

LAUGH

The fast cut editing when Casper spends a day with his son at the amusement park made me laugh.  The corn starch scene was funny too.

Nothing made me laugh uncontrollably, but similar to Jon Favreau’s roll in Swingers, there were plenty of well-timed but subtle funny moments.

CRY

It felt like the audience was supposed to cry when Chef Casper and his son were having a heart-to-heart moment at the end of their road trip.  Touching, but no crying for me.  I really began to worry that this great film was not gonna snag the tri-fecta until a few scenes later when Casper watched the 1-second clip video that his son made.  My cry came less from the father-son relationship and was more about creating memories and creating culture.

 

The Book of Manning

The Book of Manning

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THINK

I already had a lot of respect for Peyton and Eli.  Especially Eli for his draft day shenanigans, two super bowl rings, and aloof attitude.  But the man who I learned a lot more about from this story was Archie.  Yes, an hour long documentary can probably make anyone look good or bad if done correctly, but Archie just seemed like a great guy to me after watching.  Dealing with his fathers death during a pivotal moment in his football career, and taking beatings with the Saints but having nothing but positive memories about the experience.  I always figured that he force-fed all his kids footballs for breakfast, but this story makes one think otherwise.

I am always intrigued when peering more deeply into the lives of celebrities.  They are just people, and my opinion of them is often wrong…but, I still do not really KNOW the Manning family.  Still, an incredible family and story.

LAUGH

My favorite home video was Peyton dancing the tango.  Taking drama class to get out of something else.  Archie reminded me of my own mother during these scenes…if I ever committed to something as a kid I was never allowed to quit no matter how much I ended up hating it.  This usually made me look back and appreciate anything I was getting myself into.

CRY

Coopers story, especially when his teammates were really nice to him when he had to leave the team.  And Archie’s dad.  Especially when he said something along the lines of “I went in the room where my dad was lying dead and cleaned things up a bit so my mother and sister didn’t see how horrible it was.”

About Time

About Time

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LAUGH

About Time did so many things well I had to give it something. It was just hard to know which category(ies) was most deserving. I went with LAUGH because of About Time’s endless charm. The charm of the protagonists, of the father, of the music, of the entire concept, and of the refusal to steer down well-worn plot roads nearly required in this genre. There was a point when I actually wondered where and when conflict would arise. That alone is worth something. As for actual LAUGHs, the sister’s greatness elicited a few . The Kate Moss explanation on the balcony and the “You had some trouble parking?” moments are a few that stood out in a sea of enjoyability.

THINK

(editor’s note: This was written after publication of the first section following Adam’s visit to an overcrowded grocery store which was remarkably a fantastic experience).

There is no shortage of sources screaming to “live each day like it’s your last,” or some synonymous variation. Outside of jokey flaws, like if it was really my last day I would consume seven pounds of McDonald’s, nobody really questions the validity of this advice. The thought of getting to relive each day knowing the outcome, but getting to appreciate the little things, is not uncharted territory (Groundhog Day). But by offering enough of a unique take on this ubiquitous message, About Time was able to affect me and induce a THINK. This is all the more impressive given how much I already think about about our own selfishness and it’s ability to subsume chances for interconnectedness (I constantly think about this mostly thanks to my favorite speech ever).

CRY

You know those voters who will intentionally not vote for an absolute hall-of-famer just so the athlete doesn’t achieve first-ballot status? Or not vote so the athlete doesn’t achieve 100% of the vote? You know how this is colossally stupid? I felt I was doing a little of that with About Time. So rarely does a film achieve TLC status that I feared setting a precedent by granting the designation to a solid, but not extraordinary, movie. But TLC is not about only awarding the best films, it’s about awarding films that moved us emotionally (which often coincides with a film being very good). This movie is worth a CRY. I go back to the music which was so well done. This song is almost unfair to use because it basically guarantees tears if inserted properly into a film. I was a little skeptical of Tim’s willingness to sacrifice his own well-being for others, but it still carried weight. As did the decision to have a third child. 

Whiplash

Whiplash

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THINK

I think this is the best film I’ve seen in 2014. My thoughts (in no particular order): could I ever be great, am I wasting my potential, Nick Saban, do I have an innate ability to deal with abuse more than most, surround yourself with motivated people, what’s the best way to motivate, thank you for avoiding unrealistic plot points but still delivering satisfaction, this is so intense and cornrows are the best.

You are flicking through stations and you don’t really want to watch a movie, but TNT happens to be in the middle of a film that has moments. “I guess I’ll watch just to see that (insert scene).” Whiplash is filled with these types of moments. To name a few: the breakup scene, the dinner table scene (my favorite), rushing/dragging, the first date and “good job.”

LAUGH

Comedy of the year? Asking the girl out, the dinner table and just about every damn scene with the professor. Funny in the most brutal way possible.

CRY

If I was by myself I’m sure I would have had tears. As it was, there was plenty here for CRY. The final scene comes to mind.

 

Somm

Somm

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THINK

Yes, quite a bit of thinking.   Mostly involving the hypothesis – could I achieve any goal that I entirely devote myself to?  “Entirely” is the key word here because the folks in Somm who attempt to achieve Master Sommolier status devote nearly all of their waking lives to reaching this goal.

It also made me think about the wine business/wine community, traveling the world, understanding cultures, and learning in general.

LAUGH

For sure some laughs.  Definitely every time they were picking on Ian.  Dave and his laid back approach to things made me smile.  Also, when they all had completed their exams and they were comparing answers made for a nice laugh.

CRY

I had some tears in the end during the final meetings to discuss the verdict of the exams.  One moment in particular stands out, but I will avoid explaining because it’s a spoiler.

 

The Book of Manning

The Book of Manning

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I reconsidered my harsh judgments of Eli. I still hate him for his draft day shenanigans and for the NYG fans who think he will be in the hall of fame.  But, I was reminded that everyone has a story, and when it is artfully presented, anyone can become sympathetic. It’s embarrassing that I would need to be reminded of this fact.

I just like all the Mannings a lot more after this film.

LAUGH

The old footage was fantastic (and surprisingly above-average quality). The little Mannings, like all little kids, were surely terrible (at least part of the time) if you had to parent them from sunrise to sunset. But getting to view their antics? I laughed.

CRY

The Cooper story brought tears to my eyes.

Senna

Senna

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THINK

Thought about a lot of things.  Politics in sports, traveling, being wealthy…all the other things that come with being a sports superstar and national hero.

More importantly I thought about finding something in life that you are passionate about, and then finding  it in it’s purest form.

LAUGH

Not laugh out loud, more like laugh because certain parts just made me happy.  Ayrton made me laugh a few times too.

CRY

A lot of emotion, no tears, but sadness and emotion.