Media Matters Archive

Top 10 Films of 2018 – by Media Matters Reviewers

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January 30, 2019 Thirdway

As promised, here’s our annual list from most of our Media Matters reviewers, reflecting a pretty good year for film! Read and enjoy (or argue in the comments!) and file or bookmark this post for your film viewing queues! Several lists count down from ten meaning the best pick is last, others don’t prioritize their lists. But always fascinating what Mennonites are loving in the realm of film. Lists posted in the order they were received. (As always forgive the various list formatting of our beloved quirky reviewers. But don’t miss their descriptions/rationale for vote and placement.) Vic’s Top 10 […]

Vice

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January 24, 2019 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Vice opens with a disclaimer on its portrayal of former vice president Dick Cheney. The filmmakers claim the movie is “as true as it can be given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in recent history. But we did our (expletive) best.” This statement sets the tone for the movie as a satirical look at a polarizing figure in U.S. history. The movie is witty, but because the truth is never exactly clear, it allows writer/director Adam McKay to take liberties. Is he trying to do his “best” to tell Cheney’s story or his […]

Fiction readers: do you love literary or popular books?

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January 17, 2019 Gordon Houser

According to an October 2013 article in Scientific American by Julianne Chiaet, researchers at The New School in New York City “found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.” Participants in the study read excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing, then took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The difference was significant. Literary fiction, writes Chiaet, “focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships.” It increases readers’ psychological awareness. “Although literary fiction tends to be […]

If Beale Street Could Talk

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January 10, 2019 Vic Thiessen

As I created my list of top-ten films of 2018, I noted that it was an outstanding year for films about the black-American experience and that most of those films were made by black filmmakers. Among them were Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting (written by Daveed Diggs), Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You and Peter Farrelly’s Green Book. But the best was saved for last, with Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, which I like even more than Moonlight, Jenkins’ Best Picture winner of 2016. Tish (KiKi Layne) is a […]

Roma

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January 4, 2019 Jerry L. Holsopple

Roma, the latest release from Alfonso Cuarón, lulls you into the slow pace of repetitive chores and activities. You begin to wonder if anything is going to happen. Cleo, one of two maids, serves an upper middle-class family with four children. She cleans, takes care of the children, does laundry and helps serve the meals. She is called to hold the dog, every evening, while the father, Antonio, carefully pulls the car into the tight space behind the gates of their house. Sofia, the mother and Teresa, the grandmother, round out the family. Antonio, the doctor, offers the first excitement with […]

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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December 27, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The only comic book I remember buying was one based on the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan. It was hardly a collector’s item, and my collection never made it past one. I perused comic books at friends’ houses, but I never became interested in comic books. On the big screen, I have enjoyed my share of movies from the Marvel Cinema Universe, but never had any interest in going back and reading the original stories on which the stories are based. So I was skeptical when I heard good things about an animated, big-screen version of Spider-Man. My skepticism morphed […]

Mortal Engines

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December 21, 2018 Carmen Andres

What happens when Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens—the filmmakers of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit—get a hold of the futuristic steampunk world of Mortal Engines, a 2001 young adult novel by Phillip Reeve? You get an adventurous and visually gorgeous two hour movie with a touch of thought-provoking ideas. Set hundreds of years after the “Sixty Minute War,” during which the use of powerful quantum weapons resulted in geological upheaval, giant predator cities roam the Western world on wheels, ingesting smaller cities and devouring dwindling resources. Haunted by her mother’s murder, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) […]

Widows

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December 13, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Writer/director Steve McQueen has made one brilliant film after another (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave), all of them dark dramas about people in pain and people inflicting pain on others. Widows, advertised as a heist thriller, is actually another slow-moving dark drama focusing on people in pain (and people inflicting pain). The film also explores a variety of vital and topical themes with obvious good intentions. But while Widows enjoys near universal critical acclaim, I am uncertain about whether such good intentions can succeed with such cold and violent characters, a number of whom are meant to be sympathetic. […]

Green Book

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December 7, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

Green Book is named for the guide book that told black travelers where they would travel safely as a person of color. When traveling, you could find places where you would be welcome to check into a hotel or eat at a restaurant. The story, borrowed from a real story, however is more a glimpse into the forming of an unusual friendship, than it is a critique of this type of travel. Take a highly cultured black man, trained as a classical pianist, who departs on a concert tour into the deep south. Put a working-class night club bouncer, modestly […]

Bohemian Rhapsody

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November 29, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When I was 13, I wanted so badly to watch Live Aid, a benefit concert for hunger relief in Africa. Our family didn’t have cable TV, but our neighbors did. I asked if I could come over and they said sure, because they would be away for the weekend. I showed up bright and early at 6 a.m. Coming from a family that favored classical music, I played my rock music quietly in my room, and I had never even been to a rock concert live. When British superstar musicians pooled their talents as Band Aid to write “Do They […]