She-Ra and Catra: An Evolved Hero-Villain Relationship

This article contains mild spoilers.

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Noelle Stevenson understands characterization.

Last year, I discovered Nimona, an Eisner-nomated webcomic-turned-novel written by Stevenson about a whimsical, enigmatic shapeshifter who befriends an evil figure with an ultimately good heart. I found Nimona at a secondhand bookstore—the kind of store filled with spine-damaged books sporting dogeared pages—and I was surprised by the pristine condition of the copy I found. As I flipped through the beginning of the graphic novel, I saw a collection of glossy, well-preserved, wrinkle-free images.

Then I got to a page featuring a profoundly tense moment between Nimona, the shapeshifter, and Lord Ballister Blackheart, the semi-benevolent villain. The white border of the page was filled with scrapbook-style stars and bold exclamation points apparently drawn by the book’s previous owner.

Later, when I read that page—a page filled with genuine heartache and refreshingly nuanced character interactions—I added a couple exclamation points of my own.

Noelle Stevenson understands characterization, and that storytelling skill is evident in her latest creation, Netflix’s 2018 She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Continue reading

How Indie Video Games Depict Depression, Anxiety, and Grief

Links and videos of several indie games are posted below the article.

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Consider author Tom Bissell’s experience with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as described in his book, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter:

Oblivion is less a game than a world that best rewards full citizenship, and for a while I lived there and claimed it. At the time I was residing in Rome on a highly coveted literary fellowship, surrounded by interesting and brilliant people, and quite naturally mired in a lagoon of depression more dreadfully lush than any before or since. I would be lying if I said Oblivion did not, in some ways, aggravate my depression, but it also gave me something with which to fill my days other than piranhic self-hatred. It was an extra life; I am grateful to have it.

I read those words years ago while eating subpar noodles in a building that used to be a Blockbuster Video. The dim restaurant lights shielded me well enough from the gaggle of suburban families that surrounded me, so I hunched my back and unashamedly swallowed Bissell’s words. As a post-college, pre-career teacher wannabe, the 200-plus-page book about the artistry of video games perfectly quenched both my thirst for entertainment and my need to be perceived as an intellectual. But, more importantly, Bissell’s novel, including the excerpt above, connected with a part of me that I did not yet acknowledge: my depression and my (sometimes subconscious) attempts to deal with it. Continue reading

Cinema Sins, BobVids, and a Culture of Discontent

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If you have ever tried to explain your deep appreciation of a piece of art anywhere on the internet, you likely understand how much amateur criticism and intense posturing exists online.

At best, this negativity is an aggravating byproduct of crowdsourcing artistic validation. At worst, this persistent and indiscriminate criticism is a symptom of a relatively new and alarmingly widespread brand of groupthink. One that is unquestioningly unimpressed—always.

Either way, we seem to be entering a modern era of discontent, and this problem is worth dissecting.

With that in mind, meet a proud part of the problem: Cinema Sins. Continue reading

Film Review: The Girl in the Crawlspace (John Oak Dalton, 2018)

Full disclosure: I have had numerous conversations with John Oak Dalton about Indiana films, and received a screener of the film prior to the premiere at the Hoosierdance International Film Festival in Kokomo (it plays on September 14-15, 2018). The film is finished except for a few audio tweaks. I may update this review when the final  release is available.
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Promotional material

John Oak Dalton’s directorial debut, The Girl in the Crawlspace, is an interesting marriage of Indiana cinema and Ohioan cinema.  John Oak Dalton began his film career with support from the late African-American, Indianapolis-based director Ivan Rogers and even did some editorial work in Rogers’ Forgive Me Father (2001).  He has spent most of his career writing numerous screenplays mostly for the Polonia Brothers and Dayton’s Henrique Couto who produced this works.  It stars mostly Ohio talent, but was largely shot in Indiana (Mooreland and Farmland) with some footage shot in New Lebanon, OH, which is the location for Couto’s Calamity Jane’s Revenge (2015). Continue reading

Top 30 Superhero Films (1989-2018), Ranked by Big B

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“What is your favorite superhero film?”

Seemed like a simple question. Easy enough to answer.

Then I began to compile a list of all of the superhero movies I’ve seen. And when that list grew larger than 90 movies (watched over many, many years), I panicked. “Damn. What is my favorite superhero film? Could I even narrow it down to a top ten?” Continue reading

Review: Housesitters (2018)

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Chicago is home to a lot of film history. A number of big-budgeted films were shot in full or in part in the city. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s film program is where art house directors, like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, honed their craft. But the type of  Chicago film history that is most overlooked is the output of regional filmmakers making low-budget, independent films like H.G. Lewis or Joe Swanberg. Jason Coffmann’s feature debut, Housesitters (2018), belongs to this latter category and is a mix between a stoner comedy and monster movie. If you are adventurous, and willing to look outside of major production locations like L.A. and New York, then you may have a great time with this comedy. Continue reading

Top Movies of 2017: Jeremiah’s Picks

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This is my top seven movies of 2017. I’ve decided to do a top seven because this is the number of movies that were a step above everything else I saw this year. This is an opinion piece of what I enjoyed the most out of the year, so take from it what you will. But I think each one of these films is worth looking at and you should too. So, here are my favorite movies of 2017.

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Top Movies of 2017: Mo Money’s Picks

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Below are Mo Money’s top films of 2017 only including films that premiered anywhere in the world in the calendar year.

2017 was a great year for movies. The fact that a number of good films by directors I love (Sofia Coppola, Henrique Couto, Edgar Wright, etc.) didn’t make the list shows that there was abundance of good films. At the same time, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with critically acclaimed films and audience favorites like Get Out, Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi, Girls Trip, and others. I feel myself increasingly distant from mainstream tastes as I age. There remains numerous films released in 2017 that I would like to see, particularly On Body and Soul and Zama, but couldn’t due to diverse reasons so as always this list may change in the future.

1.) Faces Places

Agnès Varda’s latest film follows her and co-director JR, a young artist who makes murals out of photographs, as they travel to small towns throughout France. It is a great look into Varda’s career and friendships for those new to her oeuvre and those who have followed her work for years. The ending, after Jean-Luc Godard snubs their visit, is a great reminder on how wondrous and impactful cinema remains in 2017. Continue reading

Top Movies of 2017: Big B’s Picks

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These are Big B’s top ten films of 2017.

10) I Am Evidence – directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Trish Adlesic

I Am Evidence is a clear, poignant exploration of an issue that needs more attention: the epidemic of untested rape kits in American cities. Most importantly, I Am Evidence focuses on specific steps that cities can take to resolve this problem. This documentary tries hard to make itself unnecessary by aggressively targeting sensible solutions to the problems highlighted during the documentary’s opening moments. I Am Evidence is concerned with progress, not proceeds—but I hope it gets both.

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