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Authentic Romance, by Josh Long

14 Jun

Generally, I don’t enjoy romantic comedies. There are exceptions, of course, but many of them fall into regular traps; weak characters, predictable structures, pandering. So even when people that I love (Kumail Nanjiani and Michael Showalter) collaborate on a rom-com, I’m a little trepidatious.  Could it be a When Harry Met Sally, or is it going to succumb to the lower common denominators of the genre? Fortunately, The Big Sick has a big factor playing in its favor: authenticity.

The Big Sick is based on real life events. It’s the story of how Nanjiani (the co-writer and lead actor in the film) met and fell in love with his real life wife, Emily Gordon (the other co-writer). And it’s a great story – the kind every couple wishes they had when someone asks them “so how did you meet?” Gordon and Nanjiani met in a comedy club in Chicago, when she heckled him at a show (although I’m with her on this one – a “woo-hoo” isn’t necessarily a heckle).


Love and Horror, by Josh Long

11 May


From the first moments of The Lobster, we know the kind of disturbingly comical ride we’re in for. A woman drives through the rain in silence. She stops in a field of donkeys, gets out of her car, shoots one of the donkeys in the head, and returns to her car, all in one shot. We will not see this woman again, but her actions come to mean more as we are assimilated into the strange dystopian world of the film. As he did with 2009’s notorious Dogtooth, director Yorgos Lanthimos creates a singularly fascinating world, alternately filled with humor and dread.


An “A” for Effort, by Josh Long

1 Apr

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Traditionally, the American Christian right is closely associated with conservatism and traditional “American” values. So it’s no surprise that Burns Family Studios, a Christian film company started by two home-schooling families, chooses to set their new film around the American Revolution. The company has one film under their belt so far, the medieval epic Pendragon: Sword of His Father, which was well received at several Christian and Family Film festivals. While Pendragon was a passion project shot in back yards and starring the Burns family themselves, Beyond the Mask is a more ambitious, higher budget project, aiming to stand alongside similar Hollywood projects.


A God Movie, by Josh Long

11 Nov


If you’ve heard about Jarod O’Flaherty’s new film My Son, it’s probably for one reason. The film is making headlines because it’s a Christian film produced by a church in Burleston, TX; a film the Motion Picture Association of America slapped with an “R” rating. The stir over such an anomaly has spread as far as the major news networks. The situation raises lots of questions. Should a Christian film be rated “R?” How should Christians respond to ratings? Is it a publicity stunt? Is the church that produced the film being persecuted? Is the film even worth seeing, and does it stand out from other Christian films? Or from other films at all?


The Best of Pictures: Argo (2012), by Josh Long

4 Mar


ARGO (2012)
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

Throughout the years, and especially recently, the Academy Awards have taken criticism for being self-congratulatory. A glittering gala, held for the richest people in the film industry, where they give each other golden statues for achievements. While I find this an overly cynical view of the Oscars (and of awards shows in general), I can see where the sentiment comes from, especially when class-warfare language has become so prevalent. This year, the Academy seems either unaware or unconcerned with this criticism, giving the Best Picture award to a movie about how Hollywood rescued Iranian hostages. Directed by Hollywood Insider (and Oscar winner) Ben Affleck and produced by Hollywood Insider (and Oscar winner) George Clooney.


The Best of Pictures: The Artist (2011), by Josh Long

3 Apr

Written and Directed by: Michael Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman

Do we remember silent film? There are lots of us cinephiles who have watched many great silents, sometimes out of genuine enjoyment, and other times out of curiosity. But the further we get from the era of Chaplin and Murnau, the less likely it seems that the casual movie-goer has ever seen a silent movie. When Michel Hazanavicius brought the genre back into the limelight with The Artist, audiences revisited their feelings about this long-lost style of filmmaking.


The Best of Pictures: The King’s Speech (2010), by Josh Long

4 Mar

Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall

In 2010, the Oscars were coming off a year with some big changes – the bump up to ten Best Picture nominations, inclusion of some big-budget crowd pleasers in addition to artsy “prestige” films, and a different kind of Best Picture; a small scale summer release about soldiers in Iraq. It seemed like maybe Oscar was moving in a new direction, the beginning of a new era. But old habits die hard, and whether it was for good or not, the Academy Awards went back to business as usual with The King’s Speech.


The Best of Pictures: Braveheart (1995), by Josh Long

28 Feb

Directed by: Mel Gibson
Written by: Randall Wallace
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Brendan Gleeson, Angus MacFadyen

Like or hate Mel Gibson, he has undoubtedly created some of the most striking and memorable images in modern American film. He was already a Hollywood icon when he began the transition into directing. Some of his beliefs have gotten him into trouble especially in recent years, but he also clearly has ideas with which the American psyche identifies. In Braveheart he presented those ideas to us as director and producer – and won Oscar gold for both 1.


All Things Great and Small, by Josh Long

11 Jun

One of the things that make art so vital to society is its potential to penetrate and explore the mystery of the human experience. Man has always been puzzled by his own existence, and art can elevate us by sharing and expressing that bewilderment. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is a work of art that unabashedly grapples with the enormity of life’s questions while managing to stay defined and intimate. In this way, the film reflects a God who can create titanic waterfalls and volcanoes, but can also find joy in children playing hide-and-seek.


The Best of Pictures: The English Patient (1996), by Josh Long

16 Nov

Written and Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe

If you’re like me, the first thing you remember when you think of The English Patient is an episode of “Seinfeld.” In it, Elaine is forced to see the film several times, consistently hating it. Everyone around her seems dead-set on proving to her that it’s a great film until she finally explodes in the theater and yells at the screen, “Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert, and just die already! DIE!” Is that an overreaction? Two hours into the movie, watching it for a second time, my answer is no.