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These days, cynicism, dissatisfaction, and tribalism are commonplace. In regard to film discourse, these trends are fueled by Twitter, Cinema Sins, and bitter critics. If your only source of film analysis is the internet, it is easy to believe that most movies are studio-driven, kitsch-filled, cumbersome pieces of politically troublesome garbage. But that isn’t true. . . . At the end of the day . . . movies are stories, and stories can change lives.
Like Abed Nadir from NBC’s Community and the title character from Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy, I tend to use fictional stories—movies, books, and television shows—collectively as an interpersonal Rosetta Stone. A tool to unlock meaningful interactions with others. So when I say that I relate emotionally to a certain scene from Saving Private Ryan, I mean it. . . . Saving Private Ryan may not be the best Valentine’s Day movie, so here’s the point: Privacy has its benefits, but so does vulnerability. And in the grand scheme of things, the latter is a much more powerful tool.
The Connectional Table and the Call to Action Steering Team, with the help of independent research and advisory groups like Towers Watson, spent years crafting a multi-point plan to focus institutional resources on statistically proven drivers of denominational vitality. In a matter of days, General Conference delegates morphed those ideas into Plan UMC, a hastily created yet arguably clever attempt to reallocate resources without sacrificing prized parts of church structure. Then, in a matter of moments, the Judicial Council declared the whole thing unconstitutional, effectively negating years of work.
Twitter is not the place to “thoughtfully consider which movies” to watch. Twitter, though not evil, has become a cesspool of opportunistic grandstanding and exaggerated disgust. Film discussions on Twitter often devolve into aggressive GIF-filled fights in which every combatant attempts to showcase originality by hating the favorites of the others. This social media strutting would be amusing if it weren’t for the rising levels of tunnel-visioned discontent and toxicity that have penetrated most film-related fandoms.
And, on some level, I don’t want to be like Buddy. Mental health issues should not be romanticized, and my depression is not something I desire. But I appreciate that my awareness of the nuances of mental health allows me to connect more effectively with those who struggle through holiday celebrations. We must support and believe those whose mental or interpersonal circumstances act as holiday inhibitors. Too often during the holidays, cries for help are met with pontifications about gratitude, joy, and family. Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, some cling to traditions at the expense of relationships, and I do not want to live that way.
Unlike big-budget video games, indie video games are uniquely equipped to create targeted experiences that tackle multifaceted topics like depression, anxiety, and grief. Some big titles (like Mass Effect, The Last of Us, Life is Strange, and Gears of War) tactfully portray mental health issues as part of larger, more nuanced narratives, and other AAA games (like Portal, Batman: Arkham City, and Star Wars: Battlefront—not to mention older console games like Super Mario 64 and Jet Set Radio Future) offer enough immersive puzzles, riddles, and strategy-based gameplay to potentially dull the pains of mental distress. But the relative sovereignty of indie titles allows them to craft narratives that are more direct and more poignant. They are not handcuffed to audience or stakeholder expectations regarding high-concept ideas, visual excellence, and multiday gameplay length, and this freedom is handy when tackling topics like depression and anxiety.
Internet content like Cinema Sins’ “Everything Wrong With…” videos propagate an increasingly popular belief that nothing is worthy of admiration. “No movie is without sin,” they say. And, technically, they may be correct. But art is, and always has been, less of a structure to observe and more of a terraqueous landscape to experience, and effective art criticism acknowledges nuance and complexity. So when a creator gains 7.449 million followers (as of January 11, 2018) by indiscriminately and unintelligently mocking the creations of others, we should take note.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is #31. It is, admittedly, an unintentional casualty in my war against loving movies simply because they’re “fun” and “colorful,” as Rotten Tomatoes says. It is okay for superhero movies to be dark and brooding. Not all of them need jokes. I enjoyed Homecoming a lot—just not enough to fudge the numbers.
Camouflaging my reluctance as professionalism worked for some time, but those hesitations, I eventually realized, are not unique to educators. Many individuals who suffer from depression believe that they should not burden their friends and family members with their internal struggles. Many individuals who suffer from depression fear the consequences of emotional vulnerability. Many individuals who suffer from depression believe that they must be strong for the sake of others. And some believe that if they show strength long enough, they can shove depression out of the way.
But anyone who dismisses a detail’s “great comic-book sincerity” before calling Batman “pretty much of a yawn” seems ill-equipped to judge the nuanced worth of any comic adaptation. Ms. Dargis seems to judge superhero movies solely on their merits as films (which is understandable), and her perception of this particular film genre seems almost solely informed by Marvel’s recent movies (which is appalling). Compared to the gimmicky characterization of Downey’s Tony Stark and Evans’ Captain America, Affleck’s Batman seems more repressed, yes, but Ms. Dargis incorrectly interprets Batman’s understated melancholy as dull impassiveness.
Gamer culture is riddled with anti-female rhetoric, and those who speak out against the toxic language of hateful gamers often become targets of online harassment. All subcategories of nerd fandom struggle with inclusivity and bias, but gaming culture seems particularly weighed down by retrogressive participants—so much so that the community seems to be in a perpetual state of civil war.
Like a birthday spent at the dentist’s office, this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week exists amid a surge of legislative halitosis and biting commentary designed to undermine teachers, and I believe, fellow teachers, that it is our right—even our obligation—to reclaim Teacher Appreciation Week by brushing off this orange plaque with a bit of bristly, humility-trumping candor.
Though these bookends do not ostensibly share any themes, they fit nicely into a larger chronological narrative. [Bandslam] is about teenagers learning to appreciate life, and [The Color Wheel] is about young adults struggling to nurture an appreciation of life amid a barrage of cynicism and mediocrity. Viewed as a pair, the films acknowledge the difficulty of battling against the oppressive temptations of milquetoast adulthood—but they encourage you to fight anyway. And that is the mentality with which I will approach 2017.
Spider Jerusalem is not alone. Transmetropolitan is one of many comic series that galvanize the efforts of activists and ethicists. A recent Breitbart article by Charlie Nash asserts that Marvel’s recent attempts at broader representation are damaging the company’s “creative integrity,” but the article fails to acknowledge the expansive history of successful, imaginative comic book characters that pushed readers to new levels of cultural awareness. Comics and graphic novels have always been about social justice, and modern discussions about comics and their extended universes should reflect that fact.
Drops of blood. Metal scratching against rough skin. A knife tearing through flesh. Dexter‘s title sequence juxtaposes the brutality of everyday life with the lively strums and hi-hat hits of the opening’s optimistic (yet somewhat sinister) music—a contrast embodied by Dexter’s wry smile as he leaves his apartment. This intro shows us the duality of Dexter: he is both a productive citizen and a serial killer. And each episode explores the extent to which those two personalities can cohabitate.
Kimmy does not allow the Tanner family’s cruelty to damage her self-worth. Despite the negativity, Kimmy remains confident and opinionated. She rarely misses an opportunity to flaunt her quirky individuality. Yes, Kimmy’s brand of self-expression includes stinky feet and shouted responses, but these eccentricities complement her larger-than-life persona. . . . Through the eyes of the Tanner family, Kimmy’s existence is an enigma, a puzzling juxtaposition of candid vulnerability and unapologetic panache. Kimmy should not be able to exist within the Tanner ecosystem, yet Kimmy flourishes in their presence, as if she is fueled by the doubt and insecurities of others.
General Conference unveiled harsh procedural obstacles to change, and those realities highlight the necessity of institutional introspection. The gasps of delegates after the Judicial Council statement signaled the need for a level of self-examination that extends beyond hackneyed theological sound bites and Twitter wisdom. The hope is that, in the aftermath of General Conference 2012, we may have the clarity of vision to accept a fundamental truth: Our system will not change unless United Methodists believe with intentionality and enthusiasm that our structures and processes require transformation.
Young people are, by and large, missing from the church. This realization came one day when I opened my eyes and saw pews full of heads that were, with few exceptions, bald, gray, or slightly wrinkled. You may suggest, of course, that a percentage of those bald, wrinkled heads belonged to newborns, but you’d be mistaken. Very few babies attended church that day, and the yells and cries of those that did suggested that they were as surprised by the lack of young people as I was.