Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

Oscar-nominated shorts and winners

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February 28, 2019 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The beauty of short films is that filmmakers can focus on one narrow aspect of life. Shorts can also be as powerful and meaningful as a movie that is 10 times as long, and can give fledgling filmmakers an opportunity to hone their craft. Short films also have received a boost in popularity in recent years with an annual theatrical release of Oscar-nominated shorts in the animated, live action, and documentary categories. While the films are also available on streaming platforms, the theatrical release is a great way to see a great diversity of films in one sitting.  While I […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]