Media Matters Archive

BLACKkKLANSMAN

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September 6, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

Imagine a black rookie cop in Colorado Springs, infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, by posing as a white supremacist in the 1970s. If this wasn’t based on a true story, not even Spike Lee could get us to enter fully into this film, BlacKkKlansman. Lee masterfully connects the past and present without missing a beat. The film opens with a scene of tattered Confederate soldiers in “Gone with the Wind.” This nostalgia segues to a white supremacist leader practicing a speech and finally cuts to Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) walking into the Colorado Springs Police Department to apply for […]

Minding the Gap

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August 30, 2018 Gordon Houser

Many documentaries have in mind the point they want to get across and make the film fit that notion. A few let themes unfold as they present a narrative. Minding the Gap is one of the latter—and one of the best documentaries to emerge this year, when there are many good ones out. Bing Liu both directs the film and appears in it. It begins by showing skateboarders in Rockford, Illinois, with the camera (held by Liu who is himself on a skateboard) following the graceful, acrobatic skills of the young skateboarders. The music—neither intrusive nor overly dramatic—fits perfectly with […]

America’s Got Talent

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August 24, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

In my review about The Voice show four years ago, I declared that I no longer believe in guilty pleasures. If I legitimately like something that most people – or even I – deem to be low brow, I embrace it. The truth is that I haven’t watched The Voice much since that column. That is probably because I only have room in my life for one reality TV show, and for the past two seasons that show has been America’s Got Talent.  Unlike talent-specific shows such as singing-based shows The Voice and American Idol, or dance shows like So […]

Christopher Robin

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August 17, 2018 Michelle D. Sinclair

When I first heard about the new Disney movie Christopher Robin, I imagined a biopic of sorts about the real-life Christopher Robin Milne. A.A. Milne’s son inspired the Pooh stories and loved them as a boy, but he grew up to have a love-hate relationship with his father’s work and his role in the books. It turns out, Marc Forster‘s Christopher Robin is entirely fiction and bears no resemblance to the real Christopher’s adult life. All the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood gather to say farewell to Christopher Robin as he leaves for boarding school. Christopher promises Pooh he’ll […]

Eighth Grade

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August 10, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Do you remember eighth grade? I remember it all too well. For me, it was the most difficult year of my life, especially in terms of relating to my peers. But I cannot begin to imagine how much worse that year might have been if I had been a girl in our age of social media. That’s the premise of Bo Burnham’s debut film (he wrote and directed), Eighth Grade, which stars Elsie Fisher as 14-year-old Kayla Day. Kayla, in her final weeks of middle school, is trying to navigate the daily experience of being shunned or ignored by her […]

The King and Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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August 3, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

  Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki takes the front seat in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls Royce to explore America in a new film, The King. The coast to coast drive explores the American Dream, the roots of rock and roll, the 2016 U.S. election and the nature of success using Elvis as the metaphoric story. Ethan Hawke shares, near the end, that Elvis at each juncture in his career chose money, more money rather than what might have made him happy or fulfilled. Jarecki uses this theme to make social commentary on the U.S., suggesting that the dream is dead, or really […]

Three Identical Strangers

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July 27, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The age-old psychology debate of nature versus nurture has been studied and argued for years, but it’s not super splashy. No Hollywood exec is asking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to star in an action thriller where he must choose between his friends Nurture and Nature—all while saving a burning building. As far as I know, Nature vs. Nurture: The Musical isn’t coming to Broadway anytime soon. The new documentary Three Identical Strangers, however, plays out like a compelling mystery, leaving the viewers to believe nature wins—only to turn that whole theory on its head in the second half of the […]

Leave No Trace

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July 20, 2018 Gordon Houser

One rule of good storytelling is that less is more. One of the things that makes Leave No Trace so effective is not just the story it tells but what it leaves out. Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), are living in a Forest Park, a nature preserve near Portland, Oregon. They find food, collect rainwater, and sleep in a tent. They also do drills to practice hiding from anyone looking for them. We’re not told why they are there or what they are afraid of. We learn that Will is a veteran, likely suffering from […]

First Reformed

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July 13, 2018 Vic Thiessen

When I was growing up, many of the films I watched made some reference to faith or the church because both played a central, or at least regular, role in the lives of most Americans. But for decades now, films about faith, the church, or both have been few and far between, and when faith is portrayed, it is often viewed negatively, or at best is portrayed as naive. So when a critically acclaimed film comes along that not only takes faith seriously but portrays both its positive and negative aspects, I take special notice. It’s not surprising that such […]

World Cup Soccer

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June 29, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Everyone loves a good event now and again. That’s why people who don’t even know where Ireland is dress in green every March 17. That’s why people go to Super Bowl parties even if they don’t know which teams are playing. And that’s why I pretend I know how to cook international cuisine when it’s time for the World Cup. For whatever reason, I like themes. Back in college, I held countdowns on the campus radio station featuring, for instance, the top 31 songs about vegetation and foliage. Now, as the main cook in the household, I also like theme cooking. It’s […]