Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

First Man

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October 26, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

July 21, 1969 is an important day in Smith family history. My parents were watching Apollo 11 perform the first lunar landing. When astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and later walked, my brother Kent, then 14 months, started walking across the room, marking his first steps on earth. The moon landing carried cultural significance as well and elevated Armstrong to superstar status. My parents experienced the event and its aftermath firsthand, and I heard about it and studied it in school. My kids, however, have studied little about space travel and the lunar landing. So when my parents, […]

Juliet, Naked

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September 27, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Author Nick Hornby has made a nice living writing about male characters that seem to muddle through life with either a misguided purpose or little purpose at all. High Fidelity, About a Boy—and even Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch—move along those thematic lines. All of those books became the basis of movies (Fever Pitch twice, in fact—one British and one American adaptation) where the protagonists fail to live up to others’ expectations of them. Juliet, Naked is Hornby’s latest story to hit the big screen. While it follows similar patterns of the other Hornby-based movies, Juliet differs in that the characters […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Lean on Pete

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May 25, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

By Matthew Kauffman Smith Kids and animals. That’s a combination that moviemakers and advertisers alike gravitate to time and again. Cute sells. Flipper was the first movie I saw, and The Black Stallion might have been my second. Benji may have been my third. Even before I became a father, I enjoyed Because of Winn-Dixie and My Dog Skip. As a father, I have endured/enjoyed my share of animal movies.  Lean on Pete is the latest movie about a human and animal bond, but it elevates the narrative to a whole new level. The new movie from writer/director Andrew Haigh […]

A Quiet Place

April 27, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

I may owe Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn an apology. In last month’s review, I claimed that the sound-editing award makes for a good time to grab a snack during the Academy Award broadcast. Then I saw A Quiet Place, a movie in which sound—or lack thereof—is essentially the movie’s main character. While the actors and directing were excellent, it is Aadahl and Van der Ryn’s sound design that triggers every seat-squirming moment in this new thriller. The story takes place in the year 2020, when mysterious monsters wipe out most of the earth’s population. Completely blind, the monsters hunt […]

Academy Award short films

April 2, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

There are certain Academy Award categories that scream “bathroom break,” “I need a salty snack,” or “stop ignoring the kids.” For me, it’s film editing, sound editing, and sound mixing. Though I would rank it last of all nominees, this year’s nominees were all well done, and even the fifth best is worth watching. I used to not care about short films either, until theaters recently started showing them leading up to the Academy Awards. Even though the awards have come and gone, none of these films received a ton of hype; they still offer fresh viewing. All of the […]

Preview of Oscars 2018

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March 2, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

My expectations for the Academy Awards this year are low. I always expect—and even enjoy—the campiness. I know I’m going to hear songs that make me cringe. I know there is going to be stilted dialogue. I know host Jimmy Kimmel will make President Trump jokes. I also know that last year is impossible to beat. Last year I predicted Moonlight would win, and after La La Land accidentally won the award, I was ready to retire from predictions forever. I watched last year’s ceremony, but I do not remember anything but the last five minutes. To close out the […]

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

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January 26, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The first time I viewed the trailer for Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, I felt as if I had pretty much seen the whole movie. The trailer projects the film to be a revenge story of an angry mother looking for justice, featuring a stalwart performance by Frances McDormand that would propel her to her second Oscar win. Frustrated by the lack of progress in the case to find her daughter’s killer, Hayes buys a year’s worth of advertising on three billboards on the outskirts of town. McDormand will win the award again this year—that much is true. If I […]