Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

Finding Dory

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June 24, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

In the 1960s, psychologist Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment with laboratory rats, identifying half of them as smart and the other half as not smart. In reality, the rats were indistinguishable from one another. They were all just lab rats. As Dory starts piecing her story together and other characters enter the plot, the movie starts to find its own identity. Rosenthal gave a rat to each of his multiple helpers, told them if their rat was smart or not-so-smart, and then had them guide their rat through a maze. Rosenthal concluded that the rats deemed “smart” fared better because […]

Sing Street

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May 27, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When I taught 100-level college writing, there were times where I would read a student’s paper and not have any clue how to respond. A professor of mine deemed these papers as the “ungradables.” I would put the paper back in the rotation to read it again later, and hope I’d have a clearer vision the next time around. (Side note: One time I was grading outside at the coast, read a paper, and exclaimed, “I don’t know what to say about this!” With impeccable timing, a seagull flew over and dropped its opinion right on top of the student’s […]

Elvis and Nixon

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April 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Out of all of the photographic treasures housed at the National Archives, one stands out as the most requested picture of all time: a 1970 photograph of Elvis Presley standing with then president Richard Nixon in the White House. The photo captured the moment after a brief, informal, and impromptu meeting between the two icons. Elvis’s yin is three times larger than Nixon’s stoic yang. That, of course, is what makes the meeting intriguing. Four and a half decades later, that meeting plays out on the big screen in Elvis and Nixon, an entertaining, albeit shallow account of what the movie’s […]

Zootopia

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March 25, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

As the U.S. presidential election ramps up, and candidates trade barbs, insults, and half-truths about each other, it’s easy to become cynical and jaded. No matter which party you support if you are in the United States, the rhetoric is old, familiar, and repetitive. “Don’t assume things about other people—or animals—based on how they look or where they originated from.” I watched a movie several days after listening to the aftermath of the Super Tuesday primaries in March. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t think everyone is misguided and power hungry. Finally, I found some voices I could believe in: […]

Landfill Harmonic

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February 26, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When I started working at a newspaper shortly after graduating from college, I learned a valuable lesson early on: When presented with a compelling story, resist the temptation to use flowery adjectives, and don’t try to overdramatize a story that is already dramatic. If someone overcomes an obstacle or rallies for an improbable victory, then the story should lead the author, not the other way around. Chavez noticed a void of opportunities for the children of Cateura, so he decided to provide music lessons. Simple storytelling and allowing the characters and subject matter to lead the way is the primary reason […]

Room

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January 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Room is not an easy movie to watch. Joy, known simply as “Ma” lives in captivity, kidnapped at the age of 17 by a man known as “Old Nick,” who locks her in a shed. She gives birth to a son, Jack, and the two of them live in what they refer to as “Room.” Nick visits nightly as Jack falls asleep in a closet, oblivious that his mother has been a captive concubine for more than seven years. Jack does not know he is in peril. He has lived in Room all of his life, and has never stepped […]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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December 25, 2015 Matthew Kauffman Smith

I don’t blame anyone for loathing the Star Wars franchise. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry now in the hands of Disney. Go into any store—not just toy stores—and you’ll find all kind of tie-ins: vitamins, bandages, cereal, notebooks, and action figures. If you have Star Wars fatigue, or if you never cared for the franchise, then skip the long lines and sleep through the hubbub. If you can separate the hype from the art, however, and look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as a solitary story, then you’ll appreciate it for what it is: a well-made film. I was talking […]

The Peanuts Movie

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November 27, 2015 Matthew Kauffman Smith

A friend of mine went to see The Peanuts Movie at a matinee show and reported back to me that there was no one in the theater under the age of 30. Granted, there were only about 15 people present, but for the opening weekend of a major children’s release, that’s an interesting statistic. My nine-year-old daughter thought so too, especially since we went to a matinee on Veteran’s Day with a couple of hundred other families with the same idea. Kids ruled that theater. Why, my daughter wondered, were there no kids at the other showing? Charles Schulz used […]

Back to the Future

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October 30, 2015 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Last Wednesday, October 21, 2015, I picked up my phone and hailed Siri, iPhone users’ favorite personal assistant, confidant, and fake friend. I said, “Happy Back to the Future Day, Siri.” She responded by saying, “Be careful who you date today, or you could start disappearing from photos,” a reference to the first Back to the Future movie. I wished her Happy Back to the Future Day probably 20 times, and received 10 original answers, all referencing the 1985 film and its two sequels. She said “Great Scott,” a favorite saying of character Doc Brown. She asked if I wanted […]

The Streamy Awards

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September 25, 2015 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If you were caught up in the excitement of Sunday’s Emmy Awards—or overly excited about the Media Matters National Mid-year Music Day Awards in July—you may have blinked and missed the Streamy Awards last weekend. That’s pretty much the show: two dudes choosing a topic, talking about it, or in the show’s best episodes, experimenting with a topic. The lesser-known Streamys honor online entertainers, or basically the biggest stars streaming on YouTube. As with any entertainment medium, flash-in-the-pan Internet stars come and go, but then there are proven commodities out there, ones that have made a living by gaining subscribers, […]