Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

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 […]

The Big Sick

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July 28, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If there is a movie genre that could use an extreme makeover these days, it’s the romantic comedy. Sure, the formula of strangers meet, strangers fall in love, strangers grow apart, and strangers get back together is a tried-and-true one. Throw in a few one-liners, a couple of gags, and a happy ending, and you have a mediocre, albeit watchable, date night at home. Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon co-wrote this new rom-com, based on the eventful true story of their relationship. Thankfully, The Big Sick just elevated the genre. Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife […]

Did you know it’s National Midyear Music Award Day?

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June 30, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Every Christmas, my mom, a high school French teacher, would take her seasonal decorations out of storage. She had four wooden blocks, one for each letter of the originally French word Noel. My brother and I had a tradition of our own: reversing the letters to spell the name Leon. My mom would find Leon, sigh, and transform him back into Noel. This cycle repeated itself dozens of times throughout the Advent season. First presented in 2014, and again in 2015, the awards resume this year after I celebrated Take a Yearlong Hiatus Day in 2016. Unbeknownst to my brother […]

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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May 26, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

It’s official: I’m a sucker. I convinced myself that, after watching the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it would be an above-average comic-book-themed movie. I didn’t think it would be a film classic like Citizen Kane, but I thought perhaps it could be the Citizen Kane of movies based on Marvel Comics. It could also just be good-guy-fights-bad-guy , things explode, good guy wins. And I’ll be a sucker again. After all, the first Guardians of the Galaxy showed promise in establishing a hodgepodge of outcasts who band together, earn each other’s trust, and form a semblance […]

Born in China

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April 28, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If the Academy Award winners were based on cuteness, Born in China would be the runaway winner for best picture, and Mei Mei the baby panda would pretty much win every other category. The latest Earth Day release from Disneynature revels in the cuteness factor of its baby panda, snow leopards, and golden snub-nosed monkeys as they learn to live and survive in the vast China ecosystem. But cuteness only goes so far in life. People eventually yearn for substance, and that bodes true for Born in China. As with its Earth Day documentary predecessors, Disney sacrifices story in favor […]

Designated Survivor

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March 24, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

During the Cold War, the U.S. government, out of fear of the Soviet Union using nuclear weapons, created a position of “designated survivor,” which still exists today. While the president, vice president, members of Congress, and members of the president’s cabinet attend, say, a State of the Union address, one lower-level cabinet member stays away from the scene. Escorted by the Secret Service in presidential fashion, the designated survivor hangs out in an undisclosed location. If all higher-ranking officials perish in a catastrophe, the designated survivor assumes the presidency. When the Capitol Building suffers a horrific attack, everyone ranked higher […]