A Pocket Full of Ticket Stubs

December 6, 2014

I have neglected my blog.

This has been the busiest semester I can recall – teaching four classes (including a Lifelong Learning course) and enjoying them all despite it being twice my usual teaching load, chairing the United Way Campaign for Wake Forest University, serving as a Faculty Fellow in an undergraduate residence hall, revising a book manuscript, starting a new film…and other assorted things…you get the idea…I have not had time for many important things.

But, I’ve missed the blog and don’t intend to overextend myself again to the degree that it means falling behind with updating you about what I’m watching.

Look for a television catch-up to come, but today I’ll write brief comments on most of the movies I’ve seen but not shared in this space.

Before I Go To Sleep – the best thing I can say about this film is that I saw it on Halloween! Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth (cast against type) are fun to watch, but there’s not a great deal to recommend the film otherwise.

Birdman – did not quite live up to the hype for me. I love the concept and the performances, but the ending is not satisfactory for me. My friend Chad saw the film at the same time I did but in different cities, and he has a better take on the ending of the movie that I did at the time (quoted with permission from a text): “My reaction is that they are both mentally ill and share that connection and understand each other more than anyone else understands them. And they both want desperately to escape their lives.” I admire the film but am not moved by it.


Dear White People – is an important film for me. I saw it twice, in fact, once alone and a second time with students. If you accept that some characters are “types” representing “ideas” (especially administrators), then some concerns I’ve heard expressed about the film are allayed. It’s clear that we have a race problem in America and that most whites have a different perspective on a variety of topical issues than most people of color – even when it comes to lived experiences as direct evidence. This film can be a useful catalyst for conversation, and as we know from recent events at campuses near and far, the situations and events in the movie that cause student unrest are not unrealistic.

Dear White People

Dial M for Murder – one of my Wake Forest seminars this semester is Gender and Hitchcock, and it was a delight to take some students to see the film projected in 3D on the big screen at a local cinema. Not one of my Hitchcock favs for assorted reasons, it was nonetheless a fun evening.

Interstellar – is filled with ideas that interest me, but the film itself is only partially successful in engaging my head and my heart. Honestly, I liked it more than I expected because I often find Christopher Nolan’s work too gimmicky, but sections still felt too long, and I was more interested in the daughter’s story than the father’s narrative, which left me feeling shortchanged.

Last Days in Vietnam – pacing is a problem. The archival materials are captivating, but the storytelling is uneven. The first half hour or so of the film should have been compressed into a very short exposition to give the several compelling stories that follow greater impact.

Rosewater – would have been a terrific play. I’m sympathetic to the story, but the single perspective of the narrative limits dramatic opportunities that would have made it a much stronger film.

St. Vincent – surprisingly good because Bill Murray is such a convincing grouch, Naomi Watts can play anything, Jaeden Lieberher is believable, and Melissa McCarthy can handle a straight role. The lack of sentimentality and performances make this film more than the sum of its parts.

St. Vincent

The Judge – a family drama in the classic style is, like St. Vincent, good, old-fashioned storytelling. I’d watch Robert Duvall in anything, and Robert Downey, Jr. is accomplished, too. While not indelible and remarkable, it is a solid picture.

The Theory of Everything – ah, now this one I love. Maybe I’ll see it again. Maybe I’ll write more about it later. Maybe it will be on my annual Top Ten List. This story about Jane and Stephen Hawking’s courtship and marriage is wonderful and unexpected in its emotional truth. Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne are perfect – and I am nearly convinced he can play anything, too. Maybe he should team up with Naomi Watts in something totally unexpected and dazzle us. SEE THIS FILM!

The Theory of Everything

This is Where I Leave You – utterly forgettable. I’ve already forgotten it and can’t think of anything to say!

Two Faces of January – students in my Gender and Hitchcock class and I went to see this one afternoon because someone in class reported that it had been described has “Hitchcockian.” We decided collectively that while story elements are similar in some ways to those commonly found in Alfred Hitchcock’s work that the more realistic aesthetic disqualifies it from serious comparison because, as we know, Hitchcock is not only the “master of suspense” but also a master of formalism.

Two Faces of January

A Little Something to Celebrate the Season

October 29, 2014

Here’s a new post on my scariest viewing experiences on my Huffington Post blog, a place where I occasionally post general interest items.

Hot Off the Presses: New Festival Coming to Town

October 16, 2014

A news release has just gone out announcing a new film festival coming to Winston-Salem — OUT @ the Movies Fest ’14!

Here is the release:

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — OUT at the Movies, Winston-Salem and the Triad’s LGBT Film Series, is proud to announce our first film festival – OUT @ the Movies Fest ’14!

The festival, a recipient of an Innovative Projects Grant from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, will take place November 14th – 16th at a/perture cinema and on the campuses of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Wake Forest University

Highlights of the festival include a screening of the acclaimed Brazilian film, THE WAY HE LOOKS, at WFU on Friday evening, Bishop Gene Robinson will join us Saturday at WFU for his documentary, LOVE FREE OR DIE (immediately followed by a Q & A) and Shiv Paul and Chip Hines will be in town for two screenings of QUEENS AT COURT. Rodeo star and QUEENS AND COWBOYS: A STRAIGHT YEAR ON THE GAY RODEO subject, Char Duran, will be here from Colorado Springs, and JC Calciano and Jack Turner will travel from L.A. to join us for the screening of the romantic comedy, THE 10 YEAR PLAN. The festival will conclude Sunday evening with a celebrity reception and awards ceremony at Jeffrey Adams on Fourth.

Other films include A LAST FAREWELL, HELICOPTER MOM, LILTING and RUBI GIRLS. Pastors Brenda and David Poteat (FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO) will join us for a panel discussion immediately following a screening of THE NEW BLACK. In addition, there will be a selection of shorts, including several from UNCSA School of Filmmaking alumni. The full slate of films is available at http://www.OUTattheMoviesWinston.org.

Individual tickets are $8.00 and will be available for all films at each venue, an hour before showtime. Tickets are also available at http://www.OUTattheMoviesWinston.org or by calling 336.918.0902. A limited number of All-Access Festival Passes with reserved seating are available for $60.00.

The festival will benefit North Star LGBT Center, OUT at the Movies and OUT @ the Movies Film Fest ’15.

# # #

Can’t wait to check out the films I’ve not seen, and you know I’m a huge fan of The Way He Looks, which is Brazil’s submission to the Academy Awards this year. I’ve also written in the past about Live Free or Die, The Ten Year Plan, and Queens at Court. It’s a great lineup!

The Way He Looks 2


October 6, 2014

There are films by David Fincher over the years that have had me on the edge of my seat (Fight Club and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and others that have had me covering my eyes (Se7en and Panic Room), but Gone Girl doesn’t fall into either category.

There are debates about how it compares to the book (haven’t read it) and debates about whether or not it is misogynistic (I could argue either way).

While I think the film stands alone as a solitary work (by which I mean that you don’t have to have read the book to “get it”), I find it both lacking in sustained suspense and a bit self-conscious in its construction.

The film is not bad, but with this much hype, not bad is not good enough.

Not bad is disappointing.

Gone Girl


October 5, 2014

Love is Strange is one of the best movies I’ve seen in months. It is tender, authentic, and even delicate in its interplay of family dynamics.

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play Ben and George, two men who have lived together in love for decades. When they marry, George loses his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school, a scenario that seems “ripped from the headlines” and, thus, more than plausible.

The financial jeopardy caused by his firing causes Ben and George to sell their apartment and temporarily move in with family members – separately. Given the constraints of New York City real estate, this, too, is a believable turn of events.

No matter how much family members may love and respect one another, close quarters and different lifestyles are bound to take a toll, as is separation for partners whose lives have been inextricably linked for so many years.

On its own merits, I would love Love is Strange, but there is more for me to admire about the film in the form of three intertextual strands.

First, I have mentioned how the film addresses a relevant issue that Frank Bruni writes about today in his New York Times op-ed column – the Catholic church’s policy of firing employees who marry same-sex partners even when their status as partners has been known beforehand.

And, there is a second strand that, frankly, dazzled me when I was watching the film. Love is Strange is essentially an updated version of one of the saddest movies I have ever seen, Leo McCarey’s 1937 film Make Way For Tomorrow in which Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore play the deeply in love couple forced to separate over financial difficulty that leads to the loss of their home.

Sigh. Just thinking about this film makes me weary and heartsick, which may not make you want to see Make Way For Tomorrow, but you should anyway.

Finally, the film strikes me as an interesting addition to cinematic depictions of “good teachers” who (usually unsuccessfully) challenge institutions of education and the status quo. George does that when calls the priest who fires him out on the hypocrisy of the church and, later, communicates with the parents of the students he taught music.

One of the marvels of Love is Strange is its surface simplicity and accessibility overlaying a much more complex story. The performances are strong, the storytelling subtle, and the situation is thought-provoking, but it is the tension between the simplicity of the situation and the complexity of finding a solution for it along with the intertextual narrative elements that makes me a fan…and I am a fan of Love is Strange.

Love is Strange


September 22, 2014

This semester, I’m teaching three classes, and two of them are media studies seminars: Culture and the Sitcom, and Gender and Hitchcock.

Students in both classes are supposed to post and comment on our WFUmediaphiles blog. For now, it’s mostly me posting and students commenting, but I expect that to change soon.

Take a look if you are so inclined. And, feel free to join the conversation!


Fascinating Read — Important, Too

September 18, 2014

If you don’t know about “The Bechdel Test,” you MUST read this; if you already know about “The Bechdel Test,” you will WANT to read it!

Alison Bechdel’s work IS genius, so the grant is fitting!


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