Matthew Kauffman Smith Archive

Sharon Jones

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November 25, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The documentary Miss Sharon Jones is a good place to start discovering Jones, but the following is a mixtape of just 10 of her best recordings. Sharon Jones couldn’t stop singing, even in her final days. Jones, the lead singer of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, died November 18, 2016, at age 60, from pancreatic cancer. According to an interview with bandmate Gabe Roth in the Los Angeles Times, the entire band sat by Jones during her last days. Jones had suffered two strokes in a week, and could no longer speak. But when the band members played the guitar […]

Two Movies: “Suicide Squad” and “Don’t Think Twice”

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October 28, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When Suicide Squad was about to premiere in metroplexes across the world in early August, comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeted about the decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to give the movie a tame rating. Birbiglia wrote and directed the comedy Don’t Think Twice, which hit the screens two weeks earlier. Birbiglia didn’t understand why the MPAA deemed his movie more offensive. The MPAA is sending a message that it just doesn’t tolerate violence—it celebrates it. Here’s his tweet from August 2016: Mike Birbiglia ‪@birbigs Suicide Squad has machine gun killings and bombings and got a PG-13 rating. ‪@Dontthinkmovie […]

Miss Sharon Jones!

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September 30, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The only lull that occurs at a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings concert is when Jones invites audience members onto the stage to dance with her. Most of the time, the chosen few will try too hard to find their 15 seconds of fame as they attempt to overshadow Jones with goofy, ill-advised dance moves. Jones may stand 4 feet 11 inches tall, but it’s impossible for anyone to overshadow her. Jones gave up a music career at some point because “some record label told me I was too fat, too short, black, and old.” Now 60 years old, Jones […]

The Secret Life of Pets

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August 19, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The animated feature film market is oversaturated now, with the major studios releasing one seemingly every other week (and in fact, that is the average since Angry Birds came out in May). While that is way too many in my opinion, it does have one benefit: it is helping my kids distinguish between what they think is a good movie and a just okay movie. At this point in their lives, they haven’t truly disliked any movie, but some movies don’t stick. At this point in their lives, they haven’t truly disliked any movie, but some things don’t stick. When […]

Captain Fantastic

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July 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If potential moviegoers view the poster for Captain Fantastic, they may get the wrong impression. Ben (Viggo Mortensen) wears a bright-red suit while flanked by his six children, who are dressed in clothes ranging from semi-formal blazers and dresses to pajamas and a green jumpsuit with gas mask. They stand next to Steve, the family bus. Anyone expecting to see a comedic, fish-out-of-water story will be disappointed. Anyone willing to be simultaneously entertained and challenged will be rewarded. The poster screams QUIRKY COMEDY! Even the film’s name implies something whimsical. While the movie is quirky and features comedic moments, the […]

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 […]