What should I be doing instead of this?
 
WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Encounters of 'The 4th' Kind

0 Comments · Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Andre Hyland boasts a substantial online following through his sketch-comedy character Jesse Miller — dude loves Monster Energy drinks and button-up shirts with tribal flame designs — but that’s not what has people buzzing about the Cincinnati native nowadays.   

Waking Up to ‘Good Morning Karachi’

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 13, 2016
There’s a funny thing about social and cultural issues in modern society; actually, the debate starts with the whole idea of what it means to be modern.   

Looking Forward to New Characters in 2016

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Will 2016, with its over-abundance of sequels on the horizon, be in a position to introduce audiences to new characters that might one day join the ongoing pantheon of franchise players that dominate the multiplexes?  
by Tony Johnson 12.10.2015
at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Spoonful of Cinema: Room

Irish-born director Lenny Abrahamson last charmed us with the post-modern indie drama Frank. It was a film about finding harmony and friendship — rather low stakes compared to his newest film. The 49-year-old director is hitting us where it hurts in latest effort, Room, a tense indie drama with its fair share of thrills that plays off of a screenplay from Emma Donoghue based on her novel of the same name. Abrahamson boldly and unapologetically drops us into Donoghue’s world. It’s a small shed inhabited by a mother, Joy (Brie Larson), and her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Held against their will by a caretaking yet maniacal captor, the room that they inhabit comes to be their physical world. But what is even more intriguing is the son’s understanding of the world that he has never been exposed to. Jack hasn’t formed his beliefs based on his own observations. His mother has taught him that the room they inhabit is “Room” — what seems to be perceived by Jack as a separate dimension from the world in the same way that the world would be considered a separate dimension from Heaven or Hell. This makes plans for breaking out exceedingly troublesome when Jack’s mother is forced to use her son as the main piece of her escape plan. How do you explain to a 5-year-old when to jump out of a truck, where to run or how to get help when the boy has never even seen the light of day? When they finally escape and are thrust into reality, neither of them is prepared for it. But both of them are caught in shock for different reasons. Joy must face the fallout from her parent’s divorce, an unwanted celebrity status when her story that becomes sensationalized by a ruthless mass media and the reclamation of a life once lost. Jack is thrust into a world he once thought uninhabitable. It shakes the foundation of his entire perspective, and the unraveling of his mother only makes things more difficult for everyone involved. Led by Brie Olsen and Jacob Tremblay’s mother-and-son chemistry, the film unfolds at a pace and with a grace that is sorely lacking from too many pictures. The movie hardly drags for a second. Every detail of every conversation warrants something to consider beyond what we hear and see. As we come to witness Joy and Jack’s re-entry into the world as we know it, they must grapple with a loss of every sense of familiarity, having spent the last five years captive in their room. Joy and Jack are the only link each one of them has to a painful past. Room signifies the beginning of what will be an onslaught of artsy independent films taking trips during awards season. As of this morning it’s garnered three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Larson) and Best Screenplay. From an industry perspective, I imagine it will have a similar role as Whiplash did for 2014’s movie season. It has an up-and-coming director like Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle. They share the quality of leading millennial festival darlings in Brie Larson and Miles Teller. And both of them had low figures at the box office — Whiplash brought in less than $15 million, while Room hasn’t even broken $4 million (this will change if it comes to be nominated for an Academy Award, as most distributers will re-release a film as did Whiplash’s Sony Spotlight partners when awards-hype sets in). Ultimately, I don’t expect that Room has any sort of chance to do serious damage during awards season, but I can’t imagine a scenario where Brie Larson doesn’t bring home some sort of hardware for her efforts. She is absolutely stunning at every turn of the nearly-two-hour story. If someone beats her to the Oscar or Globe for Best Actress, it will be difficult to imagine someone being a clear favorite to win beforehand. It is impossible to take our eyes off of her every move in Room. Larson likely finds herself now at a moment in her career that may soon take her places in the realm of Jennifer Lawrence, Mia Wasikowska, and Rooney Mara as some of the most discussed, beloved and talented Hollywood actresses of their generation. The emotional toll on Larson of portraying Joy in Room could only be imagined for anyone outside of the production process, but I can at least imagine that it will change the way Larson carries herself. Building off of her work in the heart-wrenching Short Term 12, Larson is no longer most notable for her shy-gal cuteness in 21 Jump Street. Rather, she has grown into more mature material with a vastly daring emotional breadth. She has gained and exhibited whatever it is that makes an actress into a star, a character into a friend and a girl into a woman. Brie Larson — not unlike Joy — has seemingly grown up suddenly and without so much as a flinch. She still carries brightness about her, but now there is something more to illuminate. Brie Larson is no longer just a good actress. She is a rare talent worthy of our acknowledgment, our awe, and our admiration. Get to the Esquire before you miss her in Room.
 
 
by Kerry Skiff 12.07.2015
Posted In: Literary, Movies, Film at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
covington library

Beyond the Books

Movie screening at Kenton County Public Library's main branch

While this time of year is the season to go out and explore various holiday happenings, sometimes it’s nice to have a quiet movie night. As a seasoned college student, some of my favorite times with friends are the nights we hole up in bed and watch a Disney film. So when I saw that the Kenton County Public Library’s main branch was hosting a free movie screening last Tuesday, I found myself venturing to Covington for the event. The screening was of the 1993 film, And the Band Played On, a docu-drama depicting the beginnings of the AIDS virus in America. The screening was held on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, as a way to spread education and awareness of the virus.My first worry was about walking in a few minutes late, but that concern was quickly doused when I entered the large but empty room. The film had already been started and was running through the beginning credits at the front, where dozens of vacant chairs sat in rows facing the screen. As there was no one in the audience to protest, I settled down, taking up more than my fair share of seats as I cozy. After about an hour, I looked around and noticed that I was still alone, a fact I attributed to the cold and rainy weather of the day. The film itself was an interesting depiction of how the U.S. medical and political communities first handled the virus, especially in the wake of a changing presidential administration and the changing dynamics of the gay community at the time. “This is the third year we have screened this film,” says Gary Pilkington, Adult Program Coordinator for the Kenton County Public Library. “At previous screenings, most people enjoyed the film. They don’t usually think about AIDS very much in their day-to-day lives, so this helped to re-focus their awareness.” According to Pilkington, it’s important to host events that bring attention to health concerns in the community. “We chose to screen And the Band Played On … to help the community understand that HIV and AIDS haven’t disappeared,” he says. “Most people don’t think twice about it unless a major celebrity reveals they have it or are HIV-positive … It has reached the point where it isn’t in the public consciousness as much as it had been, yet it is still a real threat to health.” I learned a lot about AIDS from the film, since most of my prior knowledge had been brief training on how to safely avoid contracting HIV and AIDS from the lifeguard training I received years ago. While I personally enjoyed the film, it was disappointing to see that no one else took advantage of the free screening, but perhaps with better weather and more awareness the next showing will be packed.Find this event interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library: Star Wars Bash: The Force Awakens at the library with themed crafts, food and a costume contest. Film Friday Matinee: Come to the library for a showing of Far From the Madding Crowd. Classic Movie Matinee: Join the crowd for a special showing of holiday film Christmas in Connecticut.
 
 
by Steven Rosen 12.03.2015
Posted In: Movies, Film at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anomalisa-008r

'Anomalisa' in the Running for Academy Award Nominations

The film joins 'Carol' as a Cincinnati-related movie garnering praise

There looks to be another very artful Cincinnati-related movie, besides Carol, that is on important Best Films of 2015 lists, wins critics awards and even figures in Oscar nominations. And it wouldn’t be Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, which like Carol was predominately filmed in Cincinnati but set in New York. Sony Classics isn’t planning to release that Miles Davis biopic, which Cheadle directed and stars in, until April. Rather, this is a film that is set in Cincinnati but wasn’t shot here because it’s an animated feature for adults that uses stop-motion puppets. It’s called Anomalisa and was written and co-directed by the always-adventurous Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and also wrote and directed Synecdoche, New York. (The co-director is Duke Johnson.) Anomalisa started life as a 2005 play called Hope Leaves the Theater. I have not seen it, but going by online and print stories from those who have, it is the tale of a depressed, married motivational speaker who, on a trip to Cincinnati that features a one-night hotel stay, believes he has found his ideal mate. But there may be complications. David Thewlis voices the lead character; Jennifer Jason Leigh is the woman he is attracted to. All other characters are voiced by Tom Noonan and have the same faces. That latter fact is important because it could be interpreted as a characteristic of a delusion called Fregoli Syndrome. In fact, the hotel in the film is named Fregoli. Independently financed, partly through Kickstarter, Anomalisa has won raves since premiering at Telluride and Venice film festivals in September. Britain’s Sight & Sound, one of the world’s most important film journals, has just ranked it the 11th best new film of 2015 — Carol ranked second. And both it and Carol are Best Feature nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards. It has been acquired by Paramount Pictures and is getting a limited release at the end of this month, after playing at film festivals, to qualify for Academy Awards. A huge poster board for its (still-undetermined) Cincinnati opening is already up at Esquire Theatre. If all this sounds too good to be true, there is a catch. Advance reports and early reviews don’t make it appear that Anomalisa’s depiction of Cincinnati is an especially complimentary one. In fact, the city just might have been chosen intentionally as an appropriate place for someone like the film’s principal character, Michael Stone, to have an emotional crisis. Here’s how Rodrigo Perez’ review on Indie Wire began: “With apologies in advance to the people of Cincinnati, in the worldview of Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa, or at least to the misfortune of its characters, the Queen City represents a soul-crushing dullness and boredom that could drive any man mad. For customer service guru and author Michael Stone (brilliantly voiced by David Thewlis as a classic Kaufman-esque misanthrope), already fundamentally unhappy and in the midst of a huge existential crisis, Cincy is a grueling hell on Earth of fatuous people and irritating small talk. “In all fairness, it could be any faceless and anonymous city — part of Kaufman’s aim is to examine and send-up the mundanity of the business trip and that odd experience of feeling like an alien exploring the world of this not-quite-real, single-serving fantasy existence where people wait on you hand and foot.” Whatever its take on Cincinnati, the work that went into making Anomalisa is impressive. According to the Crafting Anomalisa short, it involved the creation of 1,261 faces and 1,000 costumes and required 118,089 frames of film to reach its final 90-minute running time.
 
 

A Resourceful Pair Breaks Out of ‘Room’

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 18, 2015
We tell ourselves the world is a big place, but director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), adapting Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, shows us just how infinite the space can truly be.   

Tough Guy Charms in ‘Brooklyn’

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I still remember the first time I took notice of actor Emory Cohen onscreen. In the Derek Cianfrance film The Place Beyond the Pines, he played the pampered son of Bradley Cooper’s reluctant cop-turned-hero.  
by Tony Johnson 11.11.2015
at 05:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
spectre

Spoonful of Cinema: Spectre

When it comes to the James Bond pictures that have hit theaters in my lifetime, none hold a more important place in my memory as Daniel Craig’s embodiments in Casino Royale and Skyfall. So when I saw Spectre, the fourth and final Daniel Craig-led installment in the iconic spy series, it was more than just a Bond movie. It was a conclusion to a span of my young life that stretches across more than nine years. The franchise reboot came at a time in my life when a love of movies was only beginning to mature. It’s been a long time. Come to think of it, I didn’t even have a Facebook account in the Casino Royale days. A lot has changed since the first time we saw Craig take on Bond. But has James Bond changed with times? Sure. But his challenges and villains haven’t. There’s honestly nothing exhilaratingly new brought to the series with Spectre — unless if you count Bond occasionally seeming superhuman in gunfights (I expect better than the “all the bad guys missed eight times” shtick when I watch Bond films). It’s mostly the usual routine just blown to larger proportions. The Bond girl has vital information and there’s another girl he seduces for some other important leads. The bad guy gets a scar on his face and the cars are fast and the explosions are bigger than ever before. It’s great fun, but it felt a little too self-aware for 007. Occasionally Spectre felt stuffy when it could have flourished. I prefer my spy thrillers lean and mean, especially when James Bond is putting it on the line, and that is not what we got here. Despite the shortcomings, the opening sequence brings us a scrappy, resilient 007 that we’ve come to expect, know and love. He follows an enemy target through the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico City, up into a hotel and across a roof, all to the sound of the city and a pounding percussion score. Bond kneels and peers through a laser-sighted combat riflescope to take down some international terrorists. But when someone lights a cigar, the smoke exposes the rifle’s laser. It’s a mistake that, for the moment, costs him his opportunity to complete his mission. He goes on to inadvertently blow up a building, almost gets crushed by falling chunks of rubble, leaps to a safe platform, then falls conveniently onto a loveseat. He brushes himself off and chases his target through a grand showing of the Day of the Dead’s festivities, and at this point we realize how rhythmic the picture has been. Bond continues to chase the terrorist onto a helicopter, punching up the target and the pilot. The English spy nearly falls to his death before he takes care of his enemies, and after he comes inches away from flying the chopper into the holiday festival crowd, he flies triumphantly into the sunset, grinning to himself as he goes. Much of the sequence is shot in long tracking and crane shots. Director Sam Mendes’ best moments of the film feel similar to the accomplishment of the first scene, with perilous encounters and gutsy execution from everyone’s favorite womanizer on government payroll. With the ultra sleek cinematography provided by Hoyte van Hoytema (The Fighter, Her), the tone of the picture — especially its action — seems all at once sophisticated and chaotic. Hoytema may well be a modern master at manipulating and capitalizing on a sort of spatial tension to coincide with what we witness. There are no problems with how the film is presented or how it looks. It’s the makeup of what the film presents. A good example of what Spectre lacks may be Dave Bautista’s role as the mightily violent Mr. Hinx. Hinx is a massive, intimidating colossus who greets us by gouging a guy’s eyes out. He chases down our suave hero for a good portion of the picture, and he (almost) never says a word. He just fights, chases and ultimately meets his match in James Bond. It’s fine popcorn entertainment. But it doesn’t raise the stakes in the world of 007. It’s just more of the same. “I’m out of bullets,” he tells an enemy at a crucial moment. Maybe the writers were out of ideas. The same sort of dissatisfaction can be said of Christoph Waltz’s role as the mastermind conspirator. He is trumpeted throughout Spectre as Bond’s greatest challenge yet. But the man known as Franz Oberhauser is not as effective as he is feared. He brings Bond into his lair to —guess what — be mean to him then kill him, instead of just kill him. You would think that people dealing with this particular spy would learn — you don’t capture him. Kill him immediately, or he will ruin everything. But even the most brilliant madman in all of Bond-world can’t figure that one out. It may be the most disappointed I’ve been with a Christoph Waltz performance. I suppose it’s not cliché when a Bond villain gets duped twice in the same movie, though, and this one absolutely does. To his credit, Waltz’s villain does command a very narrow, automated drill through the spy’s head a couple of times, so he doesn’t go down without giving his enemy a good scare. But I didn’t want a good scare with a couple of twists thrown in to catch me off guard. I wanted to seriously think there was no way Bond could make it out of the mess he found himself in. My generation’s 007 shouldn’t have gone out this way, but he did. He deserved better, if you ask me. He arrived nearly 10 years ago after a brief hiatus, ready to break our hearts and save the day. Now, as he goes, he leaves us empty-handed and wishing he had stayed for one last mission accomplished. But, just like the women he woos and loses and (almost) never fails to leave, we should only be glad we got a peek into the make-believe life of a daring, handsome, instinctive saboteur that is bigger than any single villainous counterpart, any single actor or any single movie. Period. 007 is a monument to Hollywood, to cinema, to blockbuster filmmaking that is engrained in the DNA of Western pop culture. And if we’ve learned anything about James Bond over the years, it’s that he will always be back. And when he does return, he’ll be looking a bit younger than when we last saw him, but we’ll recognize him. Whether its Jude Law or Tom Hardy or Chiwetel Ejiofor or someone I haven’t heard of, for around two hours we’ll only see James Bond. And he very well may learn a trick or two from those that have come before him. Let’s hope his opponent –— and everyone behind the cameras and at the writing tables, too — can keep up the pace. Grade: C –
 
 
by Tony Johnson 11.05.2015
at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
steve jobs

Spoonful of Cinema: Steve Jobs

How do you manage to pack the lifetime of a generation-defining innovator into just more than two hours of screen time? This is the challenge that Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotters) faces with his latest directorial effort, Steve Jobs. With a trademark rat-a-tat screenplay from Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball, The Social Network), the latest film surrounding the late Apple founder opts out of a tame, status quo biopic format for a compact, perhaps more difficult and ultimately beautiful picture revolving around three pivotal product releases that helped define Jobs’ career. But while we are taken from the launch of the original Macintosh to Jobs’ stint at NeXT to the original iMac unveiling, a struggle to grapple with his role in a scrambled family tree persists. It is a cumulative narrative gamble intricately orchestrated by Sorkin, sharply executed by Boyle and remarkably brought to life by the film’s star, Michael Fassbender. The accumulation of ingredients that goes into the final recipe, oddly enough, mostly reflects the biopic subject’s own tendencies as a business leader. The picture takes big chances, trusts its audience to see through the final product’s negligible flaws and eventually breaks through with something truly astounding. Occasionally, the film feels erratic — the jumps in time can feel jarring — but it is grounded in relationships revolving around a troubled but brilliant protagonist. The decision to force the life of an industry giant to be shown in miniscule slices of life — only three days with occasional flashbacks — also forces discussions that occurred (or half-occurred) at different times in Steve-Jobs-the-man’s life to occur backstage with Steve-Jobs-the-character. The decision is the mark of a filmmaking team dedicated to a narrative that does its subject justice as opposed to doing their subject a service. It sacrifices history for narrative, a worthy payment to achieve an eventual triumph. It would have been much safer to simply roll a tape that marched steadily along throughout the protagonist’s lifeline. But Sorkin’s script does for Jobs exactly what his The Social Network screenplay did for Zuckerberg — mythologize the work of the subject while humanizing them. And although it may be more fun to witness the glorification of the achievement of the iMac or “the Facebook” (do you remember the “the”?), it is much more rewarding to observe the inner workings of men mostly accessed indirectly through their inventions. It’s hard not to compare and contrast Steve Jobs with The Social Network. Their premises and Sorkin connection make them a perfect future double-header. In 2008, David Fincher showed us a heartbroken, bitter whiz kid-version of Zuckerberg crawling through the pains of social rejection and industry success in a coming-of-age story. Now, we get Danny Boyle’s take on a Sorkin wunderkind of a more optimistic flavor. Like the Zuckerberg character we get our hands on, this re-creation of Steve Jobs’ main issue isn’t his talent. It’s his ability to accept responsibility for people who are close to them in favor of his work. But Sorkin trades in the open-ended relatively bleak conclusion of Zuckerberg’s rise to fortune for a mostly uplifting ending to Jobs’ struggles with his daughter Lisa. The characters and settings and dialogues are not exact replicas of reality. At one point, Jobs remarks that everyone seems to confront him about personal qualms right before product releases, and we have to wonder how much that is wink to those who lived the real thing. The Beginning of 2013’s American Hustle comes to mind, when the opening frames read: “Some of this actually happened.” Of course, Steve Jobs is more honorable to the subject than O. Russell’s ABSCAM critique, which took unprecedented liberties and changed stories and names entirely for the sake of the narrative. Boyle doesn’t break the facts to pieces and create a new world to explore. Rather, he puts a spin on things, and he mashes tons of crucial life moments into 122 minutes of screen time. The final result feels intelligent, delightful and human. These three qualities — intelligence, delight and humanity — may have been Jobs’ most endearing personal elements that he contributed to the computer industry. “It needs to say, ‘Hello!’ ” Jobs commands Apple engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) before the unveiling of the Macintosh. The Steve Jobs we meet via Michael Fassbender is calculating and demanding, but still charming in his sheer passion and enthusiasm for his line of work. In this regard, Steve Jobs is a resounding success. Throughout the three product release events, we also get a glimpse of Jobs’ struggles as a reluctant father, a challenging friend and an adopted son. There is no practical reason to like him for how he handles his out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa, whom he initially rejects as someone else’s. “You must see that she looks like you”, Steve’s marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) tells him backstage of the Macintosh presentation. More than 10 years later, Hoffman tells Steve before the launch of the iMac, “What you make isn’t supposed to be the best part of you. When you’re a father — that’s what’s supposed to be the best part of you.” His old friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak confronts him about giving recognition to the team that developed the Apple II computer, Apple’s earliest commercial breakthrough. When Jobs declines time and time again, Wozniak breaks it down. “It’s not binary,” he explains. “You can be decent and gifted at the same time.” Even Steve’s business partner and eventual foe John Scully (Jeff Daniels) poses the question, “Why do people like you who were adopted feel like they were rejected instead of selected?” It all adds up to a man who is so sure of what he does, and so unsure of who he is. Steve Jobs is a picture with a pulse — a heartbeat. It is overwhelmingly more man than machine. This humanity drives the film’s central concerns with an airtight script, clean direction and stellar acting. We are spoiled with a wonderful glimpse of an artistic interpretation of who Steve Jobs was. We see him as a tech industry giant, a flawed father and a victim of identity crisis. “It’s about control,” the silver-screen version of Jobs admits to Scully in regard to his uneasy feelings towards his status as an adopted child. “I don’t understand anyone who gives it up.” And yet what makes Jobs so intriguing as a character is his reluctance to give up any control of his life, even if it means denying responsibility as a father. Perhaps now we can begin to understand. Grade: A
 
 

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