The pilot episode of the Justice League television show—the seminal two-season animated show from the early 2000s—allows tension to build, slow and steady. The opening, pre-title scenes tease the enigmatic demise of a couple unsuspecting astronauts. After the theme song plays (and as our goosebumps of admiration slowly begin to subside), we see Batman. He moves in the shadows, stalking a few questionable scientists who are tinkering with unknown technology. More than five minutes into the first episode, Batman—equipped with Kevin Conroy’s stoic, limestone voice—says the Justice League’s first line: “I doubt that modification’s legal.” Thus begins a show about honor and justice.
In her DC Universe animated show, what is Harley Quinn’s first line? Continue reading →
Near the beginning of 2019, I watched Life Itself, the 2014 documentary about the life and work of famous film critic Roger Ebert. Consider this quote from Ebert:
“We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”
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MPAA ratings vary. Not all movies are suitable for all audiences.
10. Picture Character – directed by Ian Cheney and Martha Shane
I saw Picture Character at the Traverse City Film Festival, and an older man seated in front of me did not appreciate this movie. He peppered his movie-watching experience with a variety of muttered comments—”Oh my god,” “This is ridiculous,” “I can’t watch this”—designed to communicate his dissatisfaction to everyone seated near him. And the man, apparently a perfectionist, was not willing to subject his comments to misinterpretation: twenty minutes before the end of the movie, he stood up and left the movie theater, mumbling incoherently as he shuffled his way toward the aisle in the dark. A grand display of angry incredulity. 🙄 Continue reading →
I was silent during the post-film Q&A. Like many in the audience, it took some time for me to emotionally and intellectually process the information I had just received.
In the fight against climate change, only a few things offer comfort: the semi-frequent construction of wind farms, the increasingly busy solar panel market, and the slow-but-steady decline of our dependence on coal.
But what if those things were not helping us? What if they were, in fact, causing new problems? What if our current green solutions were just as black as coal? Continue reading →
Movies impact us.
In 2016, I argued that if “movies can impact a moviegoer’s worldview (by stimulating creativity, encouraging empathy, and raising awareness), then moviegoers should thoughtfully consider which movies they choose to watch.” And I stand by that argument.
But now, in 2019, I offer two clarifications: Continue reading →
These movies explore a variety of topics, and MPAA ratings vary. Not all movies are suitable for all audiences.
Here are Big B’s top ten movies of 2018:
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This article contains mild spoilers.
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 flipped to a page that contained a profoundly tense moment between Nimona (the shapeshifter) and Lord Ballister Blackheart (the semi-benevolent villain). A previous owner had filled the white border of the page with cartoon stars and bold exclamation points. It looked like a scrapbook page made by Finn and Jake.
Later, I reached that page again during my first read-through of the novel, and I found genuine heartache and refreshingly nuanced character interactions. I couldn’t help but add a few stars of my own to the margins.
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 →
Links and videos of several indie games are posted below the article.
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 →
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 →
“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 →