The Florida Project (2017) Review

Synopsis

Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their own adventures, while Moonee’s struggling mom and a kindhearted motel manager protect the kids from the harsh reality that surrounds them.

Release date: October 5, 2017

(USA)Director: Sean Baker

Budget: 2 million USD

My Review

A24 has produced some amazing films recently, which made me very excited to give this film a watch. I had heard such amazing things about it, and I was not left disappointed. The film was perfectly unified in its visual presentation. The color grading, camera work, set, costumes, etc. all blended in flawlessly with one another. The balance of comedy, drama, and realism was wonderfully suited. Although some people criticize the ending of the film, I found it to be the perfect wrap up to a story centered on the power of childhood innocence and imagination.

This film is heavy to watch. While the children in the film are often unaware of the dangers and reality around them, as an audience we are fully aware and that makes the film heartbreaking to watch at times. However, the audience watches the three protagonist children of this film battle their surroundings through imagination, which is touching and serves as a constant reminder that it’s possible to make the most of a situation.

The acting in this film stood out to me. I know this was both Bria Vinate and Brooklyn’s first film role, and they both did an incredible job. The close knit off screen relationship between the two was very apparent when watching the film. They appeared like a genuine mother and daughter duo, with a deep love and understanding between the two of them. William Dafoe did a phenomenal job as always, and his performance was chilling and heart-warming.

The ending of this film stuck with me as well. While some people are critical of its unrealistic and random ending, I thought it was perfectly accomplished. The entire film centers on the power of childhood innocence and the power of imagination. At the end of the film Moonee faces her harshest reality, and we as an audience member are experiencing it alongside her. The audience receives the chance to see things through Moonee’s eyes and experience childhood imagination through the sudden and imaginative ending. Real like doesn’t always have happy endings, and the only way the audience will receive their happy ending at the end of this film is if they escape to a place of unrealistic imagination.

My Rating

8.7 out of 10


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FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis: Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs. First episode date: February 3, 2021 Network: Netflix Program creator: Maggie Friedman Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon My Review: After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into …

Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds …

Alien (1979) Review

Synopsis In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and …

Honey Boy (2019) Review

Synopsis

When 12-year-old Otis begins to find success as a television star, his abusive, alcoholic father returns and takes over as his guardian, and their contentious relationship is followed over a decade.

Release date: November 8, 2019

(USA)Director: Alma Har’el

Box office: 6.8 million USD

My Review

This entire movie has a metaphorical and artistic feel. The thing I found most fascinating about it was the level of catharsis that came as an audience member watching Shia LaBeouf play the role of his real-life father. The movie flowed together nicely to tell one collective story, and I liked that the plot of the movie did not occur in actual time. There was something special about watching the character cope with these emotions in the past as flashbacks.

This film is extremely imaginative which helps the flashbacks resemble memories. Human memory isn’t perfect, and Shia LaBeouf was inspired by his own childhood memory to write the script. When watching the scenes with a young Shia it felt like I was inside his head reflecting on his childhood along side him.

Right off the bat it was easy to see that this film possessed a lot of symbolism and metaphors. Especially with the image of a chicken. Several times in the movie it felt random at first that there was always a chicken in several scenes with Shia. However, it became apparent that they meant the chicken to symbolize his father, and that his father had always been an ever looming presence in his life. While I think they may have overplayed the chicken imagery a bit, I like what they were going for.

The acting in this film will stick with you long after the credits roll. Noah Jupe does an outstanding job portraying a young Shia LaBeouf, and the psychical resemblance between the two was pronominal as well. There were several times when watching Noah Jupe I felt as if I was watching a young Shia on the set of Even Stevens. He did an amazing job picking up the similar mannerisms.

There is something really special in watching Shia play his father. It’s apparent that the two had a flawed relationship in real life. Shia wrote this script when he himself was coming to terms with the PTSD of his childhood. He told the director he wanted to go even further with it and play the role of his father so he could try to see through his eyes and empathize with him. I totally saw the catharsis in Shia’s eyes throughout the film and that was extremely powerful to watch. It’s something that has definitely stayed with me after watching the film. I would definitely watch this film again!

My Rating

9.2/10


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Breaking Bad (2008) Series Review

Synopsis

Mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White thinks his life can’t get much worse. His salary barely makes ends meet, a situation not likely to improve once his pregnant wife gives birth, and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. But Walter is dumbstruck when he learns he has terminal cancer. Realizing that his illness probably will ruin his family financially, Walter makes a desperate bid to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left by turning an old RV into a meth lab on wheels.

First episode date: January 20, 2008

Final episode date: September 29, 2013

Spin-offs: Better Call Saul, Metástasis, Talking Bad

Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama

My Review

This is a phenomenal and consistent series that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. The thing I love most about this series is that its plot seems like that of a book. The show keeps a consistent plot from “cover to cover”, and the direction that the show takes is clearly plotted and planned. Unlike a lot of TV Shows, the show does not lose its direction, and the story-line stays entertaining throughout the entire series because of its unpredictable nature.

There are three things that stood out to me the most in this series- the cinematography, soundtrack, and acting. All three were spot on in this series and set it apart from any other series. The whole creative look of the show totally stole my attention and kept me interested in the series as a whole.

The only bad thing I have to say about this show is that it got a little slow at times. There were a few episodes I had to try harder to get through in order to reach more exciting episodes. However, this was a minor price to pay for such an incredible show. When looking at the bigger picture the slower moments helped to add in some lifelike and realistic elements. The blend of unrealistic events and realistic was perfectly balanced and in sync with one another.

One of my favorite elements of this series was the character development. Jesse and Walter are perfect character foils of each other, and the relationship between the two is extremely interesting to watch. When the series started out Walter was the moral and “good citizen”, however, the two end up switching places by the end of the series. Walter ultimately becomes the perfect representation of everything he fears and despises at the start of the series. However, the way his character redeems himself broke my heart, yet I loved every second.

My Rating

9 out of 10

I would definitely watch this entire series again in the future!

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really… I was alive”

– Walter White

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Lucas Hagar: The Influence of NArrative Storytelling on Documentaries

In a podcast with Film Riot, Lucas Harger talked in-depth about his filmmaking process as well as the creative cross between narrative film and documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, Lucas has been successful in crossing between editing both documentary and narrative stories to produce unique and creative content. According to Lucas, being able to create …

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Review (1969)

Synopsis

The true story of fast-draws and wild rides, battles with posses, train and bank robberies, a torrid love affair and a new lease on outlaw life in far away Bolivia. It is also a character study of a remarkable friendship between Butch – possibly the most likeable outlaw in frontier history – and his closest associate, the fabled, ever-dangerous Sundance Kid.

Release date: September 23, 1969

(USA)Director: George Roy Hill

Screenplay: William Goldman

Music composed by: Burt Bacharach

My Review

This film is a creative and entertaining combination of a spaghetti western and comedy while still paying homage to the classic western drama. This film is really unique, especially for its time, and I greatly enjoyed watching it. The plot structure was very well thought out and carefully orchestrated, and the soundtrack of this film was simply amazing. The color grading and camera work was incredible to watch, and although the film is very heavily dialogue based the filmmakers did a good job of keeping the story entertaining and captivating.

As soon as the old film reel clips began rolling at the beginning of the film it became apparent that this film was trying to honor the look and feel of an old western. As the first scene of the movie began to play I was blown away by the black and white color grading, and loved every second of it. However, when the next scene changed to color I found myself a little disappointing. I understand that the film was trying to transition the old western look into modern day, but the lighting and camera work of the first scene was just so jaw dropping.

Don’t get me wrong the rest of the film is shot beautifully, and I love that the cinematography kept long continuous shots using tracking, zoom, and pan instead of overusing quick cuts. I noticed this especially with the dialogue scenes. The only times I noticed lots of quick cuts between shots was during exposition shots.

This film is definitely heavily dialogue based and it reminded me a lot of a Tarantino and Scorsese film in that retrospect. I know lots of people who comment saying that this makes the film boring and lagging at times. However, I didn’t find this to be true with this film. The filmmakers balanced the perfect amount of comedy, action, and dialogue to keep the film entertaining and exciting to watch.

My Rating

7.2/ 10

I would definitely watch this film again, and I recommend everyone give it a watch at least once. Especially if your a fan of the western genre and comedy’s.


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julie taymor: the cross universe of film and theatre

In a recent podcast episode with The Treatment, Julie Taymor discussed her new movie “The Glories” and how she uses storytelling to externalize what characters are feeling on screen. Julie Taymor is a Tony Award-winning director of both theatre and film. Her goal as a creative is to master the fantastical elements of the film …

r-e-s-p-e-c-t on a film set: advice from mimi leder

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Mimi Leder, an American director and producer, gave her best advice for keeping a healthy and productive film set. Mimi’s key piece of advice was to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, and to always show them your appreciation. She pointed out that the cast …

5 Most Important Terms of Cinematic Language

The cinematic language of a film is essential to conveying the meaning of a film. Cinematic language is a from of storytelling told through camera movement, mise-en scene, cinematography, editing, sound, and anything else within the film’s frame. Needless to say a films cinematic language greatly impacts the viewers experience with the film.

The top 5 terms of cinematic language are as follows…

  1. Fade In/ Out

A fade in/ out eludes to a change in the narrative time of a film

2. Cutting Action

When a shot ends with a movement and the next shot picks up that same movement. A perfect example of this is in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey… when the bone is thrown in the air the shot cuts to a similar shaped space ship.

Match Cuts & Creative Transitions with Examples - Editing Techniques

3. Mise-en-scene

This comprises of everything within the frame of a film. Including lighting, setting, props, costume, and makeup within each individual shot.

Mise en Scène: 20 Script Elements Every Filmmaker Needs to Know

4. Content

This includes the subject of the film. Including things like characters, dialogue, themes, and symbols.

Normalizing Male Dominance: Gender Representation in 2012 Films ...

5. Form

Means by which the subject is expressed and experienced. Including camera movement, editing, pace, plot, and structure. The best movies will consist of form and content that either complement each other or intentionally clash in order to achieve a common meaning.

Film, Form and Function - Arts Matters

A helpful tip when making a film is that the more pattern and progressions that meet an audience members expectations ( or doesn’t in interesting ways) the more likely the audience member is to enjoy, analyze and interpret the work


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working with what you got: Advice from the creators of Faith Based

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, the creators of the film Faith Based (Vincent Masciale, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason), gave constructive advice to filmmakers who think they need to wait till they make it into Hollywood to make their film. The filmmakers discussed how their original plan for the film was to shoot …

Aaron Schneider’s Directing advice from film Greyhound

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Aaron Schneider discussed the things we were forced to learn while shooting Greyhound. Most of the films set was composed of green screens, which had its challenges. Schneider’s main advice is to come up with a detailed and set plan when working with extensive green screens and technology …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He went on to state that as a director it’s okay …

Eli Film Review (2019)

Synopsis

A boy becomes trapped in a haunted house while undergoing treatment for a rare disease.

Initial release: October 18, 2019

Director: Ciaran Foy

Budget: 11 million USD

Producers: John ZaozirnyTrevor Macy

Screenplay: Ian B. GoldbergRichard NaingDavid Chirchirillo


My Review

The setting and overall feel of this movie was eerie and mysterious. The filmmakers excelled in creating this atmosphere in every way possible. However, this movie felt like two different contrasting films in one and I felt there were inconsistencies with the story and characterizations.

My biggest complaint about this film was the lack of foreshadowing and clues given. Up until the last 30 min of the movie I thought the movie had a psychological approach of Eli’s mental state, and whether or not he was actually seeing things. I did not see the ending conflict of spirituality, nuns, and the devil coming into play.

The only foreshadowing I really saw was the disconnect between Eli and his father, making it apparent that their is some kind of strain on their relationship. It was also apparent that Eli’s mom was overly religious and that there was something off about the young girl who came to visit Eli. However, it was really hard to put these clues together in order to decipher the plot twist at the end of the film and it still totally comes out of nowhere.

The main inconsistency within the characters I found was the mother’s choice in trying to get Eli to leave toward the end of the film. She clearly is not aware that the Dr. will most likely kill her son in the third phase of her plan, but she transitions from desperately getting him to leave to convincing him to stay, and then helping him leave again. It was just too back and forth for me and didn’t stay consistent to the plot and her development as a character.

This film also had a lot of references to other well- known films. For example with Eli’s name being lie spelled backward I got very strong Shining references. And the whole plot twist of Eli being a spawn of Satan reminded me a lot of Rosemary’s Baby. Which felt a little predictable and unoriginal.

The camera work and transitions between shots was very visually pleasing, and I really enjoyed watching this film from a production standpoint. I really liked the use of mirrors and spirits to create an intense feel of suspense, and it definitely had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Overall, this wasn’t a bad film and all of my issues with it are plot centered.

My Rating

4.8 out of 5


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Judd Apatow: The Role of improvisation in FILMMAKING

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Judd Apatow shared his advice for film directors. Judd had lots of brilliant advice to give, but the principal thing he kept reiterating was the important of improvisation in film-making. He expressed that throughout the entire film-making process he slowly allows the film to come to life. …

Control Your Property- Jim Cummin’s Advice On Distributing Your Own Film

Jim Cummings is an extremely unique director in the sense that he often heads up the distribution of his films and their production. In a recent Podcast with Film Riot, he explains to the listeners just how he goes about accomplishing this. To many filmmakers, the idea of overseeing the distribution of your own films …


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Stargirl Review (2020)

Synopsis

A teen develops a budding romance with Stargirl Caraway, a free-spirited new student who makes a big splash on her first day of school.

Initial release: March 13, 2020

DirectorJulia Hart

Music composed byRob Simonsen

Adapted fromStargirl

ScreenplayJulia HartJordan HorowitzKristin Hahn

My Review

Overall, this movie is very lighthearted and enjoyable to watch. As a whole, the film was cute and not too predictable. However, it lacked strong character development and the music numbers were painful to watch.

I think the major reason the musical numbers felt so awkward was because the transition from a normal scene to a musical number was almost non existent. There was no smooth transition between the two which felt very unnatural. The actors also seemed very uncomfortable during these scenes, which was painful to watch. The songs were catchy, and I taped my foot along to the music, but watching it was the hard part.

Overall, the acting was good. Especially with movie mainly consisting of young actors/ actresses. However, I do think that Graham Verchere (Leo) was a lot stronger than Grace VanderWaal’s (Stargirl). I’m not sure if that’s becuase I was such a huge fan of the Stargirl book as a kid, but her performance seemed off and inconsistent at times.

One of my major issues with this film was the lack of development for Archie’s character. The audience was given very little background or information about him, and I know the book goes into a lot more detail. Because of this I felt a lack of interest and investment into his character.

I did thoroughly enjoy watching this film, and it definitely is not a typical cheesy high school movie. Which is something I greatly appreciated about the film.

My Rating

4.5 out of 10

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Too Loud For The Crowd?- Criticism On Nolan’s New Film Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” has had a successful opening weekend. However, there is still much debate behind the sound-mixing of Nolan’s films and “Tenet” doesn’t appear to be any different. In a recent article with Indiwire, Zack Sharf explores the sound mixing of Nolan’s films and the reasoning behind it. Many people often complain that …

Jody Lee Lipe’s Advice on the Emotional Impact of Cinematography

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Jody Lee Lipes gave some industry advice on conveying emotion through the eye of the camera lens to the audience. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images, and the cinematography of a film can have a massive impact on the psyche of an …

Toy Story 4 (2019) Review

Synopsis

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody’s slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realize that they’re worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

Release date: June 21, 2019

(USA)DirectorJosh Cooley

Featured songYou’ve Got a Friend in Me

Initial DVD release: October 8, 2019 (USA)

Box office: 1.073 billion USD

My Review

Pixar did it again with this film. I reached for a tissue several times throughout this movie, and I throughly enjoyed every second. I had low expectations before watching this film, because I felt like Toy Story 3 ended perfectly. However, Toy Story 4 really surprised me and I would now consider it one of my favorite Toy Stroy movies.

I love the direction the filmmakers took with Bo Peep. I enjoyed seeing what happened with her between the film, and her character growth made sense. I wasn’t aware that a reunion scene between Woody and Bo Peep was much needed until after watching it on the screen. Overall, Pixar did a phenomenal job re creating everyone’s favorite Toy Stroy characters. However, my one main issue with this movie was the way Buzz Lightyear.

In the original Toy Story film, Buzz thinks he is a legitimate space ranger and not a toy. As the movies go on Buzz comes to terms knowing that he is in fact a toy, and the audience sees him mature and grow from the first film. In Toy Story 4, Buzz believes his “inner voice” comprises the buttons attached to him. While this added an element of comedic relief to the film I felt that it was backyard progress in Buzz’s maturity.

One issue I had with Toy Stroy 2 and 3 was that the villain in both these films seemed similar to me. However, the villain of Toy Story 4 was endearing and new. To me Gabby Gabby was such an interesting villain becuase as an audience member I truly sympathized with her. While the audience may not agree with what she’s doing, it’s easy to understand and grasp why she’s doing it. I found myself rooting for her to find her own child to love and treasure.

After watching the ending scene of Toy Story 4, I felt the character’s stories truly came to a final resolution. There were no more loose ends left at the end of the film, and I truly felt it was a perfect ending to the Toy Story series. The characters and story within this film captured my attention the entire time. I was completely emotionally invested into this film, and I appreciate how much it had me equally laughing and crying.

My Rating

8.4 out of 10


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The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) Review

Synopsis

After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.

Release date: August 9, 2019

(USA)DirectorsTyler NilsonMichael Schwartz

Budget: 6.2 million USD

Box office: 22.8 million

USDNominationsDirectors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film

My Review

This was a highly anticipated film for me, and I loved every second. This is a heartfelt story of a friendship that parallels the classic novels of Mark Twain. I was sucked into the world of the film seconds in, and I was sad when it was over. This film follows the bond between brothers and how far that love can carry you through life.

My favorite thing about the film was its lighthearted and inspirational feel. The movie is clearly not meant to be the most realistic, but its imaginative feel made the movie incredible to watch. The character development was also astounding, and I rooted for the two protagonists to live a life free of repercussions.

Peanut Butter Falcon has the perfect balance of suspense, comedy, and lifelike elements. This film was hilarious to watch at times, and often had me laughing at the screen. There were also times I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, holding my breath in suspense. But overall this film reached down and grabbed a hold of my heart, truly touching me in every way emotionally possible.

The actors all did a phenomenal job in this film, and I loved every preference. Zach Gottsagen truly stole the show and held the film together. I know the writers of this film are close friends with Zach in genuine life, and they wrote this film for him to star in. Zach did definitely not disappoint, and he truly shined in his performance. Shia LaBeouf’s performances was phenomenal, and the bond between the two actors was hard to miss.

While the ending of the film was not the most realistic, it fit in perfectly with the imaginative feel defined in the rest of the movie. The ending scene truly was the last piece to the puzzle and had me smiling from ear to ear.

My Rating

9 out of 10

This is a film I could definitely watch repeatedly without getting sick of it.

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Hereditary (2018) Review

Synopsis

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.

Initial release: June 7, 2018

(Russia)Director: Ari Aster

Screenplay: Ari Aster

Nominations: MTV Movie Award for Most Frightened Performance

Awards: Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress, Bandung Film Festival for Imported Film

My Review

I have always been a tremendous fan of Ari Aster’s films, becuase of their ability to create suspense and leave a psychological impact on the audience. After watching Midsommar, I had high expectations for this film, and it left me slightly unimpressed. There was a loss of mystery in this film, and I found the plot was predictable at times. However, the film is very well made from a production standpoint.

Unlike Midsommar, there were times this film was not subtle enough in its clues. For example, as soon as they showed the doormat at Joans door step, and Annie stated that her mom used to make mats just like that I knew there was a connection between the two. Since I knew the film focused around Pagan rituals, I knew the two were related, and that Joan was up to no good. While I could not fill in all the missing details of what was going on. Enough information was spoon fed to me I didn’t really pine to figure out the answers.

The one scene that had me holding my breath in suspense, was Charlie’s death scene. I did not see that coming, and it was definitely heartbreaking to watch. However, the only other time throughout this film that I felt this way was when Steve throws the sketchbook into the fire. All the other climatic scenes did not fully have my attention. Especially any scene that involved floating.

When Peter wakes up in bed near the climax of the film, and his mother Annie clinging to the ceiling it terrified me. However, when she began floating around, it looked so fake to me I couldn’t take it seriously.

I loved the parallel of the model doll house in the film, and I wish they would have done more with it. It definitely created a sense to the audience that they were looking in on “dolls” living their life, in which they have no control in the events transpiring. I really liked this, and it made me sad they didn’t go further with it.

My favorite thing about the film was the camera work, lighting, and set design. It was truly a beautiful film to watch and they clearly put a lot of thought behind every tiny detail. The acting was also phenomenal. In fact, I forgot I was watching a bunch of actors on screen. The actor’s performance definitely made up for the lack of investment into the plot and storyline for me.

Overall, the plot of this film was unique and creative. I had a hard time getting invested into the film and I wasn’t too eager to figure out what was going on. I was just watching the film, and so I missed out on the psychological impact of the movie. However, I would watch the film again to see if there were any tiny details or symbolic meanings I missed.

My Rating

6 out of 10


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Who Are The Film Critics? And Who Do They Represent?

Kate Erbland recently wrote an article for Indiwire discussing how both women, and critics of color are still extremely under-represented in the film critic world. She states that her article will probably appear familiar to those that read last year’s Thumbs Down Study from the Center for the Study of Women in TV and Film …

Ron Howard’s Advice on Being a Good Director

In a recent Podcast with The Director’s Cut, Ron Howard spoke to Jeremy Kagan about the relationships he builds with his collaborators, and the impact these relationships have on a film. He describes the mutual and respectful relationship he aims to develop with both his first assistant director and the cinematographer, stating that both the …

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