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Monday - January 25, 2021

Articles Written By TimBrennan

 

In the Company of Wolves

January 23rd, 2021

Hunted is streaming on Shudder She didn’t want to go. It would mean leaving the safety of the village, leaving behind a world of predictability and order. Yet, there was no choice, not when the matter concerned her grandmother, whom she loved. The old woman lived in a cottage nestled far in the woods. The old woman was sick and was in desperate need of food and medicine. What choice did her granddaughter have? So, she wrapped her red cloak around herself tightly and took the first tentative steps into the forest. I bet that sounds familiar. You know all about Red Riding Hood, the old folk tale... Read More

The Last Man

January 11th, 2021

My kid Liam is around six months into his thirteenth year. He’s kind, smart, funny, and I can already see that he’ll go much further in life than I ever will. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Also, since he’s taking his first coltish steps in being a teenager, he has Opinions. Many, many opinions about many, many subjects. Which is also how it’s supposed to be. For example, here’s me camped out in my chair, watching George Clooney’s newest film, The Midnight Sky. Maybe 45 minutes into it, Liam comes in and announces he’s done with school. He asks what I’m watching and what I... Read More

Life On Earth

January 5th, 2021

If you’re reading this, you’re alive and you survived 2020. Trust me when I tell you, that’s good! We had an insanely acrimonious presidential election, a pandemic that almost completely caught the world unawares, and an economy that’s currently curled in the fetal position. Selfishness and willful ignorance swept the land. There was serious talk of secession. The whole thing sucked. And then? Then, we passed across that hazy and insubstantial border to 2021. A new year. An opportunity to, if you’re a cynic, make laughable public promises to change your life and fail to do so. Years of... Read More

Age of Wonder

December 28th, 2020

To one degree or another, superheroes are all about symbolism. Despite having been originally designed as characters for children, they have become our modern mythology. When used correctly, they can simultaneously deliver surface-level thrills while also having something legitimate to say. If Batman is about dealing with trauma and Superman is about the desire to help, then Wonder Woman is ultimately about hope.* Hope with a clear-eyed and flinty view of things as they are and not as we’d like them to be. Consider that, while she has the Lasso of Truth, Wonder Woman carried a sword in the comics... Read More

Christmas Goosed

December 21st, 2020

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. First, I do not hate Christmas. Take away the rampant commercialization and repugnant consumerism, and you still have a time of year to be thankful, to be hopeful, and to push yourself to be just a little more decent. Yes, even in 2020. It’s Christmas movies I don’t like. Specifically, the Hallmark Christmas movie sub-genre. If you don’t know these kinds of films, trust me when I tell you, you know them. A person from the bustling big city is sent to a charming and almost completely white small town. They meet a person of the opposite sex* who... Read More

Just a Writer

December 16th, 2020

Mank is streaming on Netflix France has Voltaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Marcel Proust, and so many others. They’re justifiably proud of the literary output of their citizens, with thousands of pages waxing rhapsodic about philosophy, the arts, politics, and so much more. Not to be outdone is England, with immortal wordsmiths like Douglas Adams, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, and the 800-pound gorilla in the room, William Shakespeare. You know what country, deep down in its bones, doesn’t really care about writers? That would be the good old United States of America. It’s appalling, considering... Read More

Raw Sugar

December 9th, 2020

Sweet Parents is streaming on Prime There’s an old story, one where a couple goes to the big city. These two have an artistic way about them. They’re enchanted by the lights, the energy, the seemingly limitless possibilities. They look at each other and agree that one way or another, they can make a life here. It won’t be easy, since hardly anything ever is. But it’s possible. There’s another story, one that’s far less popular. The same couple gets chewed up and spit out by the big city, a place that allows for very few mistakes. Their dreams? Crushed. Their hopes? Dashed. Those starry... Read More

The Self-Made Myth

December 2nd, 2020

Hillbilly Elegy is streaming on Netflix There’s a story many of us tell ourselves about poverty.* Poor people are poor due to their own actions or inactions. They just want a handout from the government. They’re lazy. They’re not very intelligent or motivated, and when they do utilize a kind of low cunning, it’s to figure out ways to game the system and screw over virtuous taxpayers like “us.” I remember being told that story when I was very young. We had a house in Rockville, Maryland, and while my mother stayed indoors to protect the fragile health that would eventually fail her,... Read More

Dying Is Easy

November 20th, 2020

All Joking Aside is streaming on Prime When it comes to the arts, there’s nothing harder than stand-up comedy. Don’t get me wrong; to play principal cello for the Boston Pops is an undeniable achievement. To create a magnificent sculpture is a feat that most people will never accomplish. Hell, writing a novel or screenplay is still a pretty big deal, considering the legions of people who talk about it but never do it. Stand-up is different for a few reasons. First, most people aren’t consistently funny. Your mom or co-worker might drop a wicked bon mot from time to time. Doing that for a... Read More

Disorder In the Court

November 16th, 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix There’s a long and semi-proud tradition in Hollywood of the courtroom movie. Some of them, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Verdict, and 12 Angry Men stand the test of time.* They have something particular to say about the law, about justice, and how we either uphold our ideals or abandon them altogether. Here’s the thing about making a courtroom movie…they’re hard. The first problem before you is the script. Ever read legal transcripts? If not, they’re a very effective substitution for valium. Your first challenge is to hack through... Read More

Second Verse, A Little Different Than the First

November 4th, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is streaming on Prime How does he do it? He must have the luck of Loki or some other trickster god on his side, considering the pranks he’s pulled have edged out of the realm of the audacious and into the realm of the openly suicidal. How is it possible that Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t been tarred and feathered, shot out of a cannon, or drawn and quartered yet? Of all the genres out there, comedy is the one that takes the most courage. It’s not just about putting yourself out there. You have to be willing to step into the spotlight, act like a ding-dong, and run the... Read More

Something Dark, Twisted and Awesome

October 28th, 2020

The Mortuary Collection is streaming on Shudder For a while there, horror anthologies seemed to be on the way out. You had your Twilight Zone: The Movie, your Creepshow, Body Bags, and others. Years passed, and while a steady stream of films was released that focused on short-form horror, not too many of them captured the imagination of audiences. In the last ten or so years, I think there were three films that truly helped to goose the genre and remain beloved to this day. If your taste in horror leans more independent, you’re probably a fan of 2012’s V/H/S. For a more international flavor,... Read More

Noche de los Muertos

October 21st, 2020

Murder in the woods is streaming on Prime Slasher movies are a cultural fixture. They have been for a long time. So much so that, if you’re not into horror like myself, you still know the rhythms of the genre. Ask anyone from a grandma in Arkansas to a Generation Z-er in Los Angeles, and they’ll tell you that your standard-issue slasher movie consists of: A group of high-school or college-age folks. They consisting of a dopey jock, a stoner, a hothead, a sexually aggressive woman, a “nice” guy, and a virginal young woman. An isolated area, such as a cabin, camp, or lakeside manor. A rampaging... Read More

Miss Mystery

October 16th, 2020

Enola Holmes is streaming on Netflix   Perhaps the best part of a movie, for me, is the first couple of seconds. By that point, I have a broad idea of the premise. I’ve poured myself a drink. My brain is prepared. When the first production company logo appears onscreen, we’re in a Schrodinger’s Movie scenario. Anything is possible, and even if the premise is ill-advised, there’s a chance of getting something amazing.*  Add to that the excitement you get from hearing a strong concept. A secret organization protects Earth from alien threats? Sold. A rag-tag group of scientists opens... Read More

That Old Time Religion

October 6th, 2020

The Devil All the Time is streaming on Netflix I’ve been to the South, but I’ve never been to The South. To clarify, years ago my wife and I took a week off for a road trip. We were on the East Coast then, and with the exception of a couple of trips to Florida, I had never spent any appreciable time further South than Maryland. I was intensely curious about what I would find. Honestly, I loved it. In particular, I fell deeply in love with Charleston, the elegantly crumbling South Carolina city. The food? Incredible. The sights? Marvelous. The people? Delightful.* In particular was a couple... Read More

Choose Trust

September 29th, 2020

IRL is streaming on Prime I’ve been involved in a few long-distance relationships. Despite taking place about a million years ago, I still remember them. Chiefly, I remember them being not entirely awesome. While everyone else went on dates or prowled bars or parties for ill-advised hookups, I waited by the phone. In between calls and letters, there was a delightful chasm of insecurity to navigate. As much as dating sucked, long-distance dating was a horror show. That’s not the case for everyone. Long-distance relationships can work. For them to survive and thrive, they depend on trust. They... Read More

Tempest in a Teapot

September 21st, 2020

Cuties is streaming on Netflix  Take a seat. Better yet, make a nice, hot cup of tea, pull up your nearest fainting couch, and get ready for some information that is sure to blow your mind. Ready? You sure? Okay…here goes. *takes a deep breath* Americans are really, really stupid when it comes to both art and nuance. An example is the kerfuffle that sprang up regarding The Last Temptation of Christ. It all began with the 1955 novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis that examined the life of Jesus. Specifically, it posited the concept of Jesus briefly succumbing to temptation while on the cross and... Read More

Time Is Like a Cold Wind

September 14th, 2020

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is streaming on Netflix The movie isn’t the problem. I’m the problem. Nobody ever said art was easy, right? Making art can be something that goes beyond difficult. It can go to a place that feels like self-flagellation, as if you’re hurling your entire body against a brick wall. All in service for…what, exactly? The slim possibility that your artwork manages to escape into the wild, a viewer sees it and thinks, “Ah, I see what you’re doing. Good work.” Art is a two-way street. It requires both an artist and a viewer of the art.* I get it, and I’m... Read More

Be Excellent To Each Other

September 8th, 2020

Bill & Ted Face the Music is streaming on Prime Let’s talk about trilogies. Specifically, how unbelievably hard they are to pull off. It’s difficult enough to pull off a good movie, considering you need a strong script, solid direction, and competent actors. To pull off a decent sequel, you need to build on the world you first established and go in a new direction yet one that’s not so new it undoes the first film. To do all of that, and add a third film wrapping up everything? It’s easier to climb up Mount Everest blindfolded and naked. Even the most prestigious and profitable franchises... Read More

A King Has Gone to His Rest

September 3rd, 2020

“In African cultures, we often refer to loved ones that have passed on as ancestors. Sometimes you are genetically related. Sometimes you are not. I had the privilege of directing scenes of Chad’s character, T’Challa, communicating with the ancestors of Wakanda. We were in Atlanta, in an abandoned warehouse, with bluescreens, and massive movie lights, but Chad’s performance made it feel real. I think it was because, from the time that I met him, the ancestors spoke through him. It’s no secret to me now how he was able to skillfully portray some of our most notable ones. I had no doubt... Read More