Sorry Good Will Hunting, I Need that T.P.S. Report By Monday

Two movies from the late 1990’s stand out as favorites, for me and many others: Office Space and Good Will Hunting. Both truly stand the test of time, and entertain now just about as well as as they did when released. Both also have something to say about what “Work” is, and what kind of man should pursue what line of it, and what’s respectable or questionable about the choices they make along the way. Construction labor plays an understated role in both narratives, repelling one protagonist and rescuing the other. Will Hunting (Matt Damon) begins his story as a workman, who is encouraged and motivated to find his way into a more intellectual profession. Peter (Ron Livingston) begins his story as a cubicle drone, who is encouraged and motivated to find his way into a more physically laborious occupation. For what it’s worth, Will Hunting lives in a dramatic universe, and Peter lives in a …

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on the Oscars and Being Liked

If you haven’t seen Birdman, Boyhood, or the Imitation Game, maybe don’t read this post yet. Three of the films nominated for Best Picture this year had climactic scenes in which characters confronted the importance of ‘being liked.’   Coincidence? Or important cultural phenomenon, captured? I’m leaning towards the latter. The ‘being liked’ discussion did heavy lifting in these narratives, and served as a critical character-defining plot point in each. In Birdman, Michael Keaton’s character Riggan is overwhelmed by the criticism and potential of failure he faces for trying to re-define his legacy. As a former action-movie star, now forgotten, his quest for recognition has led him to produce a serious drama on Broadway. He tries to explain his motivations to his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) but she calls his sincerity into question. She’s right. Riggan: Listen to me. I’m trying to do something important. Sam: This is not important. Riggan: It’s …

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on The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room [Motion picture]. (2005). This film nicely wrapped up what was a very complicated story. As the scandal took place, uncovering the important pieces of the narrative was difficult because they were competing with everything else in the daily news information deluge. Letting a few years pass and waiting for the dust to settle makes stepping back and taking the 10,000 foot view easier. When Enron was originally in the news I didn’t have any sense of the great impact that company shareholders suffered, and I didn’t understand what a celebrated and ‘accomplished’ company it had been shortly before the scandal broke out. Being a high school student in 2001, I wasn’t as tuned in as I would be if something like this happened now, so I appreciate the deep-dive explanation of what really happened. I am proud that investigative reporting was one of the catalysts for …

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the Fictionalizations of ‘the Google’

I had a colleague a few years ago who joked about how his aging parents always referred to Google, the search engine, as “the Google,” as if the internet giant had become an entity of such massive, generic proportion that it deserved its own “the..”, like “the city,” or “the ocean,” or “the internet.” The Google. Popular culture has been producing fictionalized narratives about what life at Google might be like, to complement the hordes of reportage documenting the reality of the company. For an account of how it came to be, and an outsider’s view of the founders, Ken Auletta’s non-fiction book “Googled” tells a fascinating story. But the real story of Google is about the people who work there, and what they are trying to accomplish. There are plenty of imaginary guesses as to what that’s like – in ‘The Internship,’ actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn actually …

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three Films Worth Watching

Senna Sports films seem to be trending toward documentary lately, leaving behind fictional drama like ‘Hoosiers’ and ‘Rudy.’ ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ series is a great example, and this portrait of Ayrton Senna, the Formula 1 driver, is another. I’m not really a  fan of auto racing, but I was able to enjoy this critical exploration of Senna’s character, and the sport of Formula 1. Recommended for fans of anything Brazilian, and also as an interesting chronicle of international sportsmanship in the days before Atlanta ’96, China’s economy, and Livestrong. Holy Motors Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Holy Motors is the strangest – and most wonderful – movie I’ve seen in a while. The kind of film that offers more questions than answers, its imaginative course plays out, like other recent French films (Paris, je t’aime) as a series of distinct vignettes, tied by a central character – …

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two Films worth Seeing

Sidewalls (Medianeras) For English speakers, the crown of ‘best quirky foreign-language romance’ has been passed from Amelie to a touching film about two neighbors in Buenos Aires. The characters ring true in the age of paranoia about digital loneliness, and their internal dialogues about trying to connect are sincere. Without any sappy, jokey, over-the-top acting, Sidewalls is funny without losing its credibility as heartfelt. Overall, a great portrait of modern urban life both by virtue of the characters and the photography. The Tree of Life When I saw Terrance Malick’s ‘The Thin Red Line’ as a teenager, I wasn’t sure what to think. The lyrical, poetically visual style was a departure from the combat movies I was used to (ahem, American Ninja). I knew there was larger purpose to the seemingly disconnected elements of the film, but didn’t really care. Malick returns to form in ‘The Tree of Life’ and …

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on Netflix Instant Programming, vol. 1 – “Zeitgeist”

The amount of video available to watch instantly on the Netflix streaming service is impressive. Much of it is perfectly entertaining, some is very informative documentary filmmaking, and bits are awful and forgotten creations hanging off the cliff of relevancy. In this first volume of reviewing what’s out there, I watched the Zeitgeist movie. Zeitgeist was first mentioned to me in 2007 by a classmate. I thought it sounded interesting but didn’t bother watching until I noticed its availability on Netflix.   The first part of the movie discusses religion and I found it to be a generally objective and inoffensive report.  Devout Christians are sure to take issue with the presentation of Jesus as a continuation in the “Sun God” myth, but as someone who has never strictly followed any religion, I didn’t immediately reject this suggestion. When the film steers into 9/11 conspiracies in part two, however, my …

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