I AM BIG BIRD

May 22, 2015

Somehow I missed out on all of the Sesame Street hoopla.

By the time the show premiered, I was already reading chapter books. When my own son came along, I was working outside of the home and not around for much daytime viewing (though I do remember the Barney & Friends theme song and some episodes of Rugrats).

Let’s just say that I came to I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story as a blank slate and discovered a truly lovely man and a surprisingly engaging love story.

Now I understand all of the elements inside the suit that give generations lots of warm and fuzzy (feathery?) feelings for the giant, yellow puppet.

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MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

May 20, 2015

It’s doubtful that I would have been among the opening weekend viewers for the latest Mad Max movie if I hadn’t read a piece last week about men’s groups trying to get people to boycott the picture because it is – gasp – a feminist film.

Toss me into that briar patch.

Two hours of balls to the wall (yes, I used that phrase intentionally) road rage does not fall within my normal range of viewing pleasures, but this picture is exceedingly well-shot, offers a compelling production design, and…well…it’s a feminist narrative.

There’s no way around this as a framing ideology, and because of it, I’m so glad to have seen the film, which depicts (with no brutality spared) what the world can look like when men are in charge and women are chattel, valued for being fertile and looking hot but never breaking a sweat (even in a desert wasteland).

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Matt Shepard Documentary

May 15, 2015

Monday, May 18, at 8 p.m. you have an opportunity – one night only – to see the documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine at a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem.

Most people recall the shocking story of the University of Wyoming student who was brutally beaten by two men and left to die in 1998. This film gives viewers a unique opportunity to learn about the person behind the headlines from the friends and family who loved him most.

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MISERY LOVES COMEDY

May 14, 2015

Watching Kevin Pollak’s documentary Misery Loves Comedy was revelatory for me. I know very little about stand-up, but so many of the familiar faces from various movies and television series have roots in that terrifying performative space.

This film, which runs about an hour and a half, includes interviews with over 60 funny people, some more famous than others, and virtually all of them have something interesting to say about humor and about life.

Normally, a film built almost exclusively around talking head interviews juxtaposed one against another would be tedious, but that is no so for Misery Loves Comedy.

While I might have liked the integration of more archival photographs (and some video clips, though not at the expense of a longer runtime), the simple structure is fitting in other ways because of its similarity to the medium it (mainly) addresses, stand-up, with one person alone on a stage trying to engage the audience.

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THE AGE OF ADALINE

May 7, 2015

I meant to go see Noah Baumbach’s new film today.

The buzz is good on While We’re Young, and since google.com/movies had the wrong time for a screening, I guess I’ll have to find out for myself another day.

My good friend and colleague Laura Linder is in town, and we’d planned a working lunch followed by a social movie.

Since we were at the theatre anyway, we decided to see a film I would not have taken in otherwise: The Age of Adaline.

Why wouldn’t I have seen it otherwise?

Because the premise is ridiculous, and movies like this seldom deliver enough real magic to lead to my willing suspension of disbelief.

Here’s the set-up: a woman survives a freak car accident in the 1930s and stops aging afterward leaving her perpetually 29-years-old. Ugh.

The cast includes some good performers – especially Michiel Huisman, Ellen Burstyn, Harrison Ford, and Kathy Baker – and incredible wardrobe choices for the eponymous character played by Blake Lively.

But, I really shouldn’t be paying so much attention to the costuming and hairstyles unless they support one of the layers of meaning in a film.

Adaline

If the far-fetched plot and wardrobe had unfolded in the service of some compelling themes, then there might be more to this slight film – some meaningful concepts undergirding the high-concept scenario.

Instead, I’m left wondering what I’m supposed to take away from the movie.

Though perhaps rare, I believe that love can be mystical, transforming, and enduring, but I don’t believe in pseudo-scientific explanations for freaky events, especially when they are narrated by a Rod Serling sound-alike.

There are many episodes of The Twilight Zone that are better than this movie, and the reason starts with better writing.


The Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 7, 2015

Long, loud, boring.

The Avengers


THE LONGEST RIDE

May 6, 2015

So, last Friday afternoon, I went to see The Longest Ride.

If you read a column I wrote for 1808 Greensboro magazine last month (thank you editor Tina Firesheets for permission to post that piece in its entirety below), you’ll know it was not a foregone conclusion that I would see this particular movie.

After I submitted the column, I started thinking about an exam question I planned to pose to students in my Media Theory and Criticism class at Wake Forest (an exam they are taking right this moment, in fact, with our computer keyboards all clicking frantically together in the classroom.)

The question is about intertextuality – the “leaky boundaries,” as John Fiske puts it, among texts.

Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »


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