April 12, 2017

Little known fact: I watch Fixer Upper on HGTV.*

Yes, Chip and Joanna Gaines are a bit too perky, and their renovations look a little too similar from one home to the next – tear out the walls and make everything light and bright. And, where do their clients come up with so much money to spend?

On the other hand, some of the transformations are exciting.

Given this context, it was with enthusiasm over the last couple of months that I noticed promos for the new HGTV show Home Town creeping into the commercial breaks I zipped through when watching Fixer Upper.

The premise of the new show is built around the two hosts getting other young couples to return and participate in the revitalization of their hometown.

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March 16, 2017

If you have never seen Persepolis (2007), you have an especially good reason to catch the Looking @ Art Cinema series Saturday morning (March 18 at 9:30) at a/perture cinema.  Even if you have seen it, hearing Joshua Canzona’s commentary and and participating in a guided discussion following the screening is worth your time and effort.

Joshua is a Ph.D. candidate in Religious Studies at Georgetown University and an adjunct instructor at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.  I asked him a few questions about the film (and hope our exchange will motivate you to see this movie!).


Mary:  Why did you decide to conclude your series with Persepolis?

Joshua:  The initial placement was somewhat accidental. We knew we wanted to include a film related to Islam since I have an interest in that religion but the relationship between Persepolis and the other two films was not a key factor in selecting the screening dates.

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March 10, 2017

Okay, I know Table 19 is a slight picture. A bunch of “random” people end up together at the worst table for a wedding reception. They share their individual stories and solve some of their problems together (or don’t) in ways that are predictable (or not).

Let’s call it a transitional romantic comedy — it doesn’t fulfill all of the classical conventions of the genre but, then again, it isn’t fully a revisionist movie either.

Still, I enjoy the realistic elements of stories written by Jay and Mark Duplass (I still wish their TV show Togetherness was coming back on HBO!), Anna Kendrick is customarily terrific, the rest of the cast is good, and there were enough funny and touching moments to keep me entertained.

Great picture? No. Engaging enough? Sure. And, you know, there’s something refreshing about seeing people in movies who look relatively untouched.

Thank you, Lisa Kudrow, for aging gracefully.

Table 19


March 10, 2017

Sometimes there are movies that need to be widely seen because they reveal things about our culture that we “know” but don’t necessarily admit or fully understand.

I Am Not Your Negro is one of those films.

Raoul Peck’s documentary, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished novel Remember This House, juxtaposes the powerful insights and indelible prose of the celebrated author with historical and cultural artifacts to help viewers see (or to see in a new way) painful truths about race (and intersecting identities) in America.


Until those truths are acknowledged, we cannot move forward.


March 10, 2017

Before Spring Break at Wake Forest, I promised some of my students I would go and see writer/director Jordan Peele’s new film Get Out. They assured me it is not as cheesy or scary as preview trailers might suggest and that I needed to see the movie because of the social commentary.

Yes, they know that I like that kind of thing in movies. Clearly, these students are paying attention in class (yes, I’m talking about you right now, Dez, because you were insistent that I see this film!).

I dragged my friend Allison along for company and (okay, I admit it) moral support.

Clinging to the assurance that it is “not a horror film” got me through the early parts of the film that startled me.

Get Out

The premise is straightforward: a young, white woman from an affluent family – Rose (Allison Williams) – brings her black boyfriend – Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) – home to meet her parents, and things get pretty weird right away.

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read any further if you have not seen the film unless you don’t mind spoilers.

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Integrating Production and Critical Media Studies

February 28, 2017

During the Teachers, Teaching, and Media Conference at Wake Forest University March 2-4, 2017, I will participate on a panel with my colleagues Molly Keener and Hu Womack to present a case study demonstrating how to integrate a production element into a critical media studies course using electronic publishing technology.


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February 27, 2017

The first time I saw Moonlight, I thought it was exceptional.

Then, a question from a student in my Media Theory and Criticism class made me clarify my assessment.

I had been talking that day about how I liked certain things about La La Land, wished Loving had also been nominated for Best Picture, and — yet — sort of wanted Arrival to win the Best Picture Award because of its craft and geopolitical message, a message of  unity we sorely need in these trouble times.  On the other hand, I continued, Moonlight is unprecedented and speaks to gender, sexuality, and culture in other ways that are critically important.


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