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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The Un-Oscars

February 27, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, I led a discussion of the 1999 TV movie Tuesdays With Morrie at a Triad funeral home for the kickoff of “It’s About Life — A Death-Defying Film Series.”

Sponsored by the Café Mortal and Death Café groups in Greensboro, this was the first of six movies chosen “to provoke comfortable discussions of death and dying.”

I didn’t inject a great deal of media criticism into the conversation (when asked at one point what my students would think of this movie, I admitted they would probably find it “cheesy”).

Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria

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Josh Canzona on Wings of Desire

January 27, 2017

Saturday, January 28 at 9:30 a.m. you can catch a special screening of Wings of Desire at a/perture and engage in conversation about the film with Joshua Canzona afterward.  He is an adjunct professor in the Divinity School at Wake Forest and a doctoral candidate in theology and religious studies at Georgetown.  I have encountered Josh in professional circles and am looking forward to hearing his insights tomorrow.  Before that, I asked him a few questions about a/perture’s Looking at Art Cinema program and about Wings of Desire.

Mary:  How did you get involved in the Looking at Art Cinema program, and what is special about this series of films and talks?

Joshua:  I attended a/perture screenings of Day for Night (François Truffaut) and Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami) when Wake alum and local filmmaker Cagney Gentry hosted the program. I really like French New Wave and the Truffaut selection drew me in but I especially enjoyed the friendly and open conversation after the screening. You do not need to be a film expert to participate in a Looking at Art Cinema event. I ended up having a conversation with Cagney about my interest concerning religion in film and Lawren Desai, the owner of Aperture, thought it would be a good theme to explore in the program.

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