Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Origin Story

The Criticwire survey came back this week and I contributed a response. You'll find me on the third page, near the bottom. The topic was origin stories. I can't really say mine is all that exciting.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Seeing MAN OF STEEL in 35mm or On the Biggest Screen Possible

Man of Steel from Warner Bros.

Here's a piece I put together for the Dallas Observer on this weekend's Man of Steel release. If you want to know where you can see it in 35mm or on a "Superman-size" screen, here's what I recommend.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Violet & Daisy REVIEW

Violet & Daisy

My review of Violet & Daisy, the directorial debut of Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher, is up at In Review Online. Give it a read, please!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Criticwire Survey for June 3rd

I participated in Criticwire's June 3rd survey on Shakespeare adaptations. The exact question went something like this: In honor of this week's Much Ado About Nothing, what's the best cinematic adaptation of a play by William Shakespeare?

See my answer here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Peril of Note-Taking

Oblivion, which is, you know, not bad

Since January, there have been few cases where I’ve just gone to a movie without some kind of ulterior motive--namely, writing about it. Every trip I can think of has seen me with a small notebook and pen to haphazardly jot down notes. I do it for accuracy, but also, depending on how bad the movie, because it gives my mind something to do and keeps it from wandering. There’s absolutely no method to what I do, I just scribble down what comes to me and hope that I can make some sense of it later.

Note-taking really isn't ideal, though, regardless of what you think of the movie. It seems a lot like texting during a date--it puts up a wall between you and the movie you're watching. What you, the note-taker, is really thinking about isn't what you're watching but your own reaction to what you're watching. You, essentially, are the real focus.

I hit on this on a Sunday night several weeks ago when I caught Oblivion with my wife and brother-in-law. Oblivion, of course, is the Tom Cruise vehicle from Tron: Legacy director, Joseph Kosinski. Since I wasn't writing about it for anyone, my pen and notebook were at home, and what a refreshing feeling that was. Leaving aside whatever faults it has, going to see it sans writing objects made it one of my most memorable moviegoing experiences so far this year. It was good, for one moment in the past few months, to not be adsorbed in my own opinion of another man's hard work.

Judgment is, after all, what acting as a critic is about. It doesn't have to be negative, but let's face it, it usually is--this despite the fact that movie critics genuinely love movies. You can chalk that up to a critic's high standards and overactive mind, or to the simple fact that creating really good work in a commercially driven environment is hard. Whatever the case, criticism is about judgement, even if it's in the movie's favor.

For someone acting as just a moviegoer, enjoyment is the primary issue, not judgement. You've paid to see something you honestly think you'll enjoy, so you're less inclined to weigh and analyze. You're there to relax and get caught up, not scrutinize.

What I think this can lead to is a fair amount of dishonesty on the critic's part. I say dishonesty because when you're surrounded by an audience eager to see what you've only been assigned to or have volunteered for, you're clearly not there for the same reason, that being to get swept away. It may happen, but the artist first has to break through the barrier of your skepticism.

The irony is that honesty is what writing about film is all about, and what note-taking can sometimes hamper. Yes, it makes jotting down a quote or a plot point easy, but as I've already said, we also run the risk of putting ourselves before the movie we're watching.

So to bring this whole thing back around to Oblivion, what I found was a fairly good piece of big-budget filmmaking. It has too many undeveloped parts to really soar, but I was moved by, and even haunted by, it's melancholic direction. I also found I was more forgiving of it than I might have been had I had my pen ready. It wasn't amazing, but it transported me, which is what a movie should do when you're open to it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No Name Is Big Enough

I'm a few days late on this, but I wanted to share two episode recaps for last Saturday's Doctor Who season finale. The first comes from the AV Club and runs negative (they gave it a C+) and the other is a rave from the Houston Press' resident Whovian.

Just as both writers processed the finale differently, they both have different opinions of the season as a whole. Alasdair Wilkins, The AV Club's writer, sees the season in a largely positive light, while Jef With One F is more critical of the overall results.

Personally, I'm with Jef. This was an incredibly uneven season--at least compared to what showrunner Steven Moffat did with season's five and six. The idea of trying to make each episode a standalone blockbuster was the real sticking point with me. My preference is serialized drama, and that's largely how seasons five and six worked. This one had a couple of larger stories running throughout, like Amy and Rory's departure and the mystery of Clara, but they were shoved to the background, dampening their emotional impact. This could've been a huge season, one to absolutely rival what's come before. But alas, it feels mainly like a big missed opportunity.

All that said, the finale was energizing and I'm excited for 50th anniversary in November. I loved the episode's intro, featuring Clara and most of the previous doctors (it excludes eight, nine and ten, I believe), and I'm still buzzing over how they introduced John Hurt. It's quite possibly one of my top five or ten Doctor Who moments--it's that good.

Of course, the Doctor's name wasn't actually revealed, despite the episode being called "The Name of the Doctor." A more appropriate title might have been "The Doctor's Secret" since that's, you know, what actually comes to the surface.

Anyway, here's that great ending. If you've already seen it, relive it again. If you haven't, you'll really want to see it in context first--trust me.