BLOG: What Makes the Kids Alright

Lady Bird.jpg

I’m about to talk about two recent coming of age movies, and neither of them are Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Though I do mention it a few times, it’s not the primary focus of this column, and the sole purpose of this image and caption is to remind you to watch Lady Bird if you have not already.

by Ken Bakely

I’ve recently caught up with two of 2018’s most discussed coming of age films – Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon and Vince Marcello’s The Kissing Booth – and, beyond the notion that the quality of the two films are intensely disparate, it provides a point of interest in the contemporary thematic and aesthetic expectations of movies about teenagers.

There’s a misconception that movies about, and made for, teenagers are a one-size-fits-all proposition. Looking at them from a more literal level, yes, they’re mostly set in high school, about tumultuous social relationships, and carry a gentle set of problems; depicting the low-stakes, high-tension rapid gossip spread through locker-clad hallways that anyone who’s graduated thanks God that they no longer have to deal with. And when Lady Bird, a classically molded coming of age movie which carries the format to such ecstatic heights that it rode its way to a Best Picture nomination, has caused such a splash in the film world, perhaps there’s a bit of subconscious attention directed to what this subgenre means.

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The Year in Review – 2017

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by Ken Bakely

Another twelve months have come and gone. 2017 was an active and unpredictable year, much like any other, but the speed and uncontrolled nature through which information flowed online – and into the media cycle– amplified the intensity and confusion that surrounded major events. The political turmoil and unrest that has marked prior years continued, and propelled the bickering therein.

So let’s be thankful for the power of art and creativity. Be it a TV show, book, movie, album, or something else entirely, these cultural works captured the zeitgeist, turning raw emotions into refined expressions and establishing a reference point for future generations. Whether you traveled to a theater to take in a live performance, took refuge in the air-conditioned auditoriums of your multiplex, camped out in front of your TV to binge watch the latest craze, or plugged in your headphones to listen your new favorite tunes, you participated in the pop cultural moment. And with the increased consciousness that we share when absorbing current events, your media choices carried a message in a year marked by demonstrations, movements, and calls for change the world over.

This year, I’m doing something different. Instead of counting down the top 15 movies I reviewed, I’m going to focus on 2017 titles, whether I reviewed them or not. Note that there are many titles I have yet to see, and so this list is only a snapshot of where my opinions stand as of December 31, 2017. There are four lists here: 10 favorites, 7 that I appreciated but didn’t love as much as everyone else, my 5 least favorite, and 3 “underrated” picks.

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BLOG: Window Seat — The Harmony of Rear Window

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by Ken Bakely 

If someone was going to remake Rear Window, I could only see one “in” – one reason to approach this content and try to rebuild it. Perhaps the one angle which Alfred Hitchcock did not take, but could prove intriguing, is to go deeper into the restrictions of its setting. The film takes place entirely within the line of sight of L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a photographer who finds himself strung up in a wheelchair. He’s spent the past several weeks confined to his apartment, staring out the window into the courtyard, where four other buildings meet. It’s a hot summer, and everyone has their windows wide open. You can see right in. He becomes convinced that one of his neighbors has committed a murder. Soon his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) have been roped into his suspicions, and poke and prod on his behalf, as paranoid whims give way into increasingly precarious situations.

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BLOG: Dancing in the Moonlight — Thoughts on the 89th Academy Awards

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A last-second correction is made at the Oscars.


by Ken Bakely

Between this and the Super Bowl, 2017 is a confusing year for people who turn off their TVs early.

The circumstances surrounding Moonlight winning Best Picture overpower the surprise that comes from the very notion of the film taking the trophy: this was, in any case, a tremendous upset. Every prognosticator, myself included, had predicted a victory for La La Land. Yet as the night went on, with the movie losing several categories seemingly tailor-made for it (sound awards and editing, etc.), a weakness emerged. But nobody could have foreseen how it all ended.

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BLOG: Blowing Raspberries at the Raspberries

The best <$10 honor in show business.

The best <$10 honor in show business.

by Ken Bakely

NOTE: The structure of the following text was salvaged from an unfinished post written in early 2014.

Founded in 1981 by Hollywood publicist John J.B. Wilson in his living room following a potluck dinner the night of that year’s Academy Awards, the principle of  the Golden Raspberry Awards, for those of you who do not know, is to “honor” the worst films of a given year, the anti-Oscars/Golden Globes/Critics Choice Awards/BAFTAs/the other eleven zillion awards shows that crop up each winter. Held the night before the Oscars (all the world’s press are already in L.A. by then, and may as well cover it) in a “deliberately low-end… ceremony”, the Razzies are voted on by anyone who pays membership dues.

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BLOG: A Spotlight on the 88th Academy Awards

What other picture did you think I would use for this post? (Credit: Getty Images)

What other picture did you think I would use for this post? (Credit: Getty Images)

by Ken Bakely

First off, yay Leo!

My personal prediction score was 17/24, or 71% (about par for the course). I’m happy that my bet on Spotlight winning Best Picture panned out. It’s not my favorite out of the nominees, but I’m not overly upset that it won. It was great to see Mad Max: Fury Road take home six statuettes, and even more wonderful to witness 87-year-old Ennio Morricone win his first competitive Oscar, clinching the Best Original Score award for The Hateful Eight, following an unprecedented career of more than six hundred projects over the past seventy years. Interestingly, Mark Rylance was able to capture the Best Supporting Actor trophy, after many (myself included) had long switched over into believing Sly Stallone had the Oscar in the bag. The word on the street is that Rylance hardly campaigned at all, so it was up to the studio’s PR department to rally the votes.

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BLOG: 2016 Oscar Predictions

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by Ken Bakely

The Academy Awards are upon us yet again. In just a few days, fancy envelopes will tell us what movies old white men in Hollywood liked the most from last year. And as is tradition for this site, I will share my predictions for the big show with you, and if you really feel like taking a risk, I’ll let you use them for your own Oscar pools (that is, if you’re prepared to lose potentially large sums of money). I will be providing my predictions in all twenty-four categories, although I’ll only provide commentary for the biggest and/or most contested categories.

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Blog: Writers Before Critics?

by Ken B.

Yesterday (which, at the time of this writing, would be April 24, 2015), we learned of the death of Richard Corliss, who had worked as a film critic for Time magazine since 1980. He was no doubt one of the more renowned, recognizable, and esteemed members of the criticism community, with a decades long roster of accessible, insightful, and clever reviews, such as his for The Crying Game, in which the first letter of every paragraph spells out one of the movie’s biggest plot twists.

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Blog: 100% Historical Accuracy (or why Selma and other historical dramas can get a pass or two)

change the world selma

by Ken B.

It seems like it’s been impossible to navigate through this awards season without encountering some criticism leveled at Ava DuVernay’s Selma – specifically, controversy over the film’s depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson as reluctant to work with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his causes. “You’ve got one problem, I’ve got a hundred and one.” Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) says to King (David Oyelowo) at one point in the movie. The context of that scene is Johnson explaining that he is a full-on politician – the President of the United States, and King is seen as a lobbyist, by definition focusing largely on one issue, which at that time was transitioning into the birthing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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