Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

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 […]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 22, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

My 11-year-old daughter came out of the movie theater after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and said, “Okay, Mo question.” A “Mo question” consists of my daughter, known around the house as Mo, asking a question about preferences. The Last Jedi does exactly what the middle, transitory movie in a trilogy should do: keep the audience on edge. “What did you like better?” she asked. “The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi?” Mo questions always seem easy, but I usually deliberate for a while. They’re difficult enough that she rarely has an answer to her own questions. “Well, maybe […]

Thor: Ragnorak

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November 24, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Cate Blanchett: winner of two Academy Awards and nominee for four others. Anthony Hopkins: winner of an Academy Award and nominee for three others. Mark Ruffalo: three-time Oscar nominee. Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba: Golden Globe winners. One would expect to see all these talented actors in a new production of Hamlet, or maybe a Jane Austen screen adaptation, or a rousing episode of Masterpiece Theater. Or perhaps Thor: Ragnorak. What? While comic book film adaptations will never be timeless works of art, Thor: Ragnorak proves that they can be clever and entertaining. Yes, a who’s who of British thespians […]

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

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October 27, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When I taught college journalism, there was one thing I included on the syllabus every quarter: a midterm viewing of All the President’s Men. Watching young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein track down leads and overcome obstacles served as an example of the hard work, luck, and dogged reporting it took to break a big story. Aside from providing journalistic inspiration, the movie also entertained; it was as much a detective thriller as it was a historical account. Anyone looking for an exciting, eye-opening supplementary sequel to All the President’s Men, however, will not find it in this movie. […]

Brad’s Status

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September 29, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When Facebook ceased becoming a college phenomenon and branched out to include older folks, people found long-lost friends, acquaintances, or someone they nodded to every day in the hall. This allowed people to reconnect with blasts from their pasts, but it also inevitably led to comparison of lives. What was their occupation? Did they have kids? Were they more successful than me? One of the problems with Brad’s Status is that there is too much Brad. Clement, Fischer, Sheen, and Wilson form a great cast, but they’re all underused. Of course, success is all relative and depends on what each […]

Eclipse Bandwagon

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August 25, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

In 1979, a pinhole camera seemed like pretty cool technology. With a shoebox, a safety pin, and some aluminum foil, my dad created a nifty little viewer for watching the partial solar eclipse in Indiana. I had just turned seven and come down with the flu, which gave me plenty of time to try to figure out how to watch something through a tiny hole. But hey, I watched Sesame Street on a 13-inch black-and-white TV, so a pinhole camera was practically an upgrade. For two hours or so, people were civil to each other on Twitter, cable news didn’t […]