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  • Episode 01 : Favorites of 2016 Review

    It's our first podcast! Rejoice! Starting things off, Jack, Robert, Bernadette and Mike tackle their favorite films of 2016 - from Deadpool to Moonlight or Rogue One to The Lobster - in this special two part episode of: Story Screen Presents. Each guest selected three films that really stuck with them throughout the year, and the table discusses each film, roundtable style, allowing tangents to lead where they may. Someone even brings up Daredevil. (No, not that one. The OTHER one). Be on the lookout for more podcasts coming to this site in the coming months, as we reveal several series that will continue to scratch those audio needs of you film lovers out there. Listen below and be sure to subscribe to our Soundcloud channel so you never miss our voices. #2016 #RobertAnderson #JackKolodziejski #BernadetteGorman #MikeBurdge #Newsletter #Podcasts #StoryScreenPresents

  • Mike's Top 16 Films of 2016

    I love “Top Lists.” It may be the opposite of what most film critics and film lovers will say - demeaning the value of some truly great works in vain of others, based entirely on personal opinion, experience and knowledge - just to get to write a little more about the films that made life worth everything over the past year. Yeah, I love that. However, like the act of watching movies itself, it’s hard to know when to stop making your list. I normally never stay at Top 5’s or Top 10’s, but since there’s a 16 in the name, there ya go. “Well, why not a 20??” you may ask then? Don’t push it. I will say this for 2016: most people seemed to not like it. I didn’t like it too much, but I have to admit I personally have had a great year. I’ve built, I’ve loved, I’ve gained a new family in my friends here at Story Screen, and I’m just getting started. WE'RE just getting started. Of course, obvious things made the year quite rough, but if you were a cinephile, 2016 was a damn good year for movies. Almost too good. There are tons of movies that did not make this list that are very much worth your time. You can find a list of those at the bottom of this article. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I did, maybe even a bit more. And of course, if something isn’t on the list and you JUST CAN’T BELIEVE IT, please let me know about it in the comments section so I can watch it, ya big jerk! Unless it’s Batman v Superman. Then I judge you and I judge your motivations. 16. Kubo and the Two Strings Everything you can look for in a good ol’ adventure kid’s movie is firmly on display in Kubo. A big movie came out recently that started getting people saying, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore!” That’s true for Kubo. A fun kid’s movie with deep themes and heart-pounding action, a mythology that feels real, and a lesson in love and confidence that everyone can benefit from. I cannot wait to watch this movie again and again and again. 15. Tickled Probably one of my most anticipated movies of 2016 was the rumored “Competitive Endurance Tickling Documentary,” a lot of my peers were talking about. No one seemed to know if it was real or fake or a combination of the two? But I’m here to tell you it is 100% real, and crazy and silly and hilarious and haunting and dark and twisted and fucking brilliant. A breadcrumb following nail biter that deepens tension with such surgical precision it’s hard to remember that this is all actually happening. It just may also have one of the greatest final scenes in a documentary ever. Watch it. 14. Hush In a great year for movies, no genre was represented more in terms of quality and originality than Horror, and Hush takes one of the most played out sub-genres, the home invasion, and creates a dazzling new experience by following the rules when it should, and breaking the rules when it can. Unfortunately, like another horror film higher on my list, it’s hard for me to talk about anything pertaining to Hush without giving away the very thing that makes it so special and engaging: what the hell is going to happen next? So I will leave you with simply this: in a genre that is filled to the brim with disposable, stupid victims, Hush transcends cliché by making every single character - from our victims to our hero to our villain - fully capable and competent people, and that just makes it all the scarier for all the right reasons. 13. Krisha Dario Argento would be proud. If you know what that means, you don’t need to read anymore of this. Go watch the damn movie, you sicko. But for the rest of you out there, Krisha is a reality-bending gem that is as hard to watch as it is deeply missed when it ends. Using members of his real family, newcomer director Trey Edward Shults, (awesome name, dude), paints the portrait of an uncomfortable family Thanksgiving and the dark things we carry that we wish we could just leave in the past if it wasn’t for their cruel, tight grip around our necks. It is a rollercoaster of emotion and a masterpiece of filmmaking. I am very excited to see what else Shults has up his sleeve. 12. In a Valley of a Violence An absolute treat of a surprise, this flick knows what the fuck it is doing. As an homage piece to the older styles of filmmaking of the spaghetti westerns, it works. As a 21st century revenge-western, it works. As a John Travolta movie, surprise, it works. With a very small cast of recognizables, the film walks at its own pace, never falling into the trappings of most homage attempts, and coming out looking like a thief. Director Ti West shakes off the horror tropes (mostly) for a beautiful, innocent good ol’ violent romp through the deserts of the Old West, and delivers one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a movie this year. 11. Joshy While not a perfect film, Joshy executes what it sets out to do perfectly. With an insanely misleading ad campaign that makes it look like The League: The Movie (ouch), Joshy is one of the most touching films and by far the funniest on this list. The actors are all charming, the story is basic enough and the quality in which it was made mirrors the tenacity of its characters. For anyone who hurts, this movie would like to buy you a beer. 10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Complain all you want about having to wait for another Edgar Wright movie. We’re all chillin’ over here with Taika Waititi and having a blast. A movie that is overflowing with comedy, drama and heart, it is a genuine marvel to watch the balancing act both the director and the actors are performing right before your eyes. It is beautiful and fun and loving. It is majestical. 9. High-Rise High-Rise is definitely not for everyone. But it should be. With breathtaking designs and phenomenal performances, not to mention a near-perfect score, the film can seem like an endurance test at times, and that adds to the tension and confusion it breeds. A look at the dangers of too much comfort, from an era that was defined by the modernization of convenience, High-Rise is one of those movies you’ll either love or hate, but you’ll think about regardless for a long, long time. And trust me, it’s going to be considered a neo-classic in twenty years, just like 2013’s Snowpiercer. 8. The Fits The story and themes at the heart of this movie are enough to entertain, but it is the sheer confidence on display from first time director Anna Rose Holmer that is the highlight of this wild ride, at times heartwarming and encouraging, and other times terrifying to an almost otherworldly level. There is a true artist at play behind every shot of the film, behind every spoken word and beyond every cut. Isolation is the name of the game when you’re a young teenaged girl, and The Fits demonstrates that terror and anxiety with a naturalistic craft that will shock you with its believability. 7. The Lobster The philosophy of love and relationships. The selfish need we all have, but can never properly speak about. The deception that togetherness is better, that loneliness is failing and that everyone is keeping score. The unavoidable feeling that love, by its very natural purpose, will always be artificial. The Lobster has a lot it wants to discuss with you, and fortunately for you, it’s got tons of laughs and heartbreak to mix things up a bit. Somebody give Rachel Weisz a high-five for me, please? 6. Green Room Green Room is a miserable movie. It’s angry and violent. I’m fairly certain it has a drinking problem. And it definitely wouldn’t like your punk-ass if you ever met. As far as crowd-pleasing movies go this year, Green Room takes the Alt-Right cake. A healthy follow-up to the directors previous go, Blue Ruin, the film is a 101 lesson in constructing and deconstructing tension with relief and terror. While more of a thriller than a horror, you can still bet your bottoms that after watching Green Room you won’t be looking at a machete the same way anytime soon. 5. Blue Jay Ho, boy. What a movie. Blue Jay is magic. The style in which the filmmakers chose to approach telling this tale of two old lovers reconnecting over the course of a single night is a controversial one. The mumblecore black and white small movies of the early 2000’s are gone, and for good reason. Many of them didn’t have the longevity needed to transcend the ironies of the time they took place. Many of the film’s own condescension becomes laughable when removed from the immediate now. (Just look at Garden State. LOOK AT IT!) But Blue Jay effortlessly rises above it all and tells the story of a type of connection each and every one of us has felt and know deeply, not because we learned it once but because we continue to learn it everyday. 4. La La Land I’m a huge sucker for musicals. I fall for them. And this movie is excitingly not disappointing. There is so much at play, and the film successfully juggles many, many different ideas and themes and general reasons for it to exist. Is it a musical? Is it an homage? Is it a critique of modern love? Is it a pep talk to the ones out there who dare to follow their dreams? Is that pep talk a positive or negative one? The outlandish idea that you could make a musical in 2016 that had the secret to enjoying the movie engrained within the dialogue and themes and make it successful? Especially when the secret to its success and your enjoyment of it is to let go of your cynicism and join them in a fantasy that worships hope and joy and creativity? It’s an insane undertaking. Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not saying that if you didn’t enjoy La La Land that makes you overly cynical. I’m saying that being overly cynical is probably why most people won’t. Which is sad because it really is such a joyful film, filled with charm and love and a level of devotion that is normally not seen in film these days. And that is not going overlooked, as the film continues to make a mess of what we think musicals can be. 3. Moonlight Across the board, Moonlight is a triumph. While many movies on my list this year touched me, nothing had the impact of the third act of Moonlight. It is so sweet and so vulnerable, as if you could actually unknowingly hurt it as a viewer at any time. The attention to visuals of loneliness and the hard realizations we need to accept and instill in others isn’t just breathtaking, it’s like being stuck underwater. When people talk about certain films as experiences, they are talking about movies like Moonlight. It is a deeply human coming-of-age story that has never been told, and is now available to help heal the world, one screen at a time. 2. The Invitation It’s quite ironic that The Invitation would center around a dinner party, as the process in which it slowly reveals information, either lifesaving or deadly, works a lot like the courses of a meal. It’s very enjoyable and misleadingly straightforward, and it’s right up there with Green Room on two fronts: expert level tension building, and crowd-pleasing goodness. This is a movie that will shut your friends up. And, like Hush, it’s very difficult to discuss what I love about the film without ruining the whole thing for you. The characters feel real; their relationships seem honest and lived-in, and John Carroll Lynch is still the scariest looking motherfucker in the world, and this movie knows that’s how we feel. If a film is like a dance partner to its audience, The Invitation takes the lead immediately and you won’t even realize you’ve stopped spinning until long after the music has faded. 1. Swiss Army Man Not often do you come across a film like Swiss Army Man. It’s one of those experiences that sticks with you, from the first time it grabs you, to all the times you may revisit it for the rest of your life, either in memory or reviewing. The film functions on so many levels it's hard to know where to start, or whether some are even worth discussing. Like the obstacles our two heroes face, the metaphors and themes within this film force us to examine what it means to be a human being, and to hopefully overcome these truths, changed for the better. It’s become a staple of mine. I quote it often. I whistle the music. Swiss Army Man is an instant classic, timeless and preserved, and people will be enjoying it just as much as I do, long after I’ve become a farting corpse myself. Honorable Mentions (seriously, what a year!!): The Neon Demon, The Nice Guys, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, The VVitch, Captain America: Civil War, Frank and Lola, Manchester By the Sea, Zootopia, Elvis and Nixon, The Shallows, De Palma, Café Society, Don’t Think Twice, Hail, Caesar!, Blair Witch, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Hell or High Water and I Am Not A Serial Killer. Mike Burdge Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He lives in Beacon, NY with his cat who is named after Kevin Bacon's character from Friday the 13th. #2016 #Newsletter #Articles #MikeBurdge #Top16

  • Jeremy's Best of 2016

    2016 was a polarizing year for many film fans, and I’ve witnessed a lot of negativity and scorn surrounding certain films. Some justifiably, like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, and others less deservedly, like Rogue One. I’ve been getting real sick and tired of all this negative movie talk, so here on Story Screen, let’s get positive and talk about my ten favorite movies of the year. I wouldn’t call this list the “best” films of the year, on a technical level. These are the films that affected me the most, both on a technical and emotional level, whether it would be making me belly laugh to the point where I’d be on the floor, tense up in my seat to the point where I’m chewing the skin off my fingers in anxiety, or leaving me teary-eyed and somber. Either way, these are the ten films that stuck with me the most this year, and will continue to do so for years to come. 10. Zootopia Non-Pixar Disney films, while they are technically impressive and a good time, never really stick with me besides humming a song or two from the soundtrack on occasion. Zootopia, however, really impressed me because it was a Disney film that had a genuine opinion and took a stance on a real issue. Big studios like to play it safe, and they don’t like to risk alienating audiences, so you don’t generally see such entertainment juggernauts tackling sensitive subjects like racism, profiling, gentrification, and general discrimination often, if at all. Zootopia offers a reflection on the ugly aspects of how we treat our fellow human beings through the lens of anthropomorphic zoo animals. It’s not the subtlest of social commentaries, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a lesson worth presenting to all ages. At the same time, Zootopia is a terrifically funny film, offering clever jokes at light speed pace with plenty of likeable and well-realized characters that were easy for me to root for. This is the best animated film Disney has put out in years. 9. 10 Cloverfield Lane Around this time of year, a lot of movie blogs put out lists of their most anticipated films of the coming year. That’s all well and good, but I could never do that, because my most anticipated films are the ones that I don’t expect, like the films that come out of nowhere and blow me the hell away. Films like 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s a truly claustrophobic rollercoaster of a movie, anchored by a terrifying performance from John Goodman. It’s the kind of performance that keeps you on edge because he’s not immediately a full-blown psycho like Walter in The Big Lebowski. He’s a ticking time bomb, slowly and calmly filling the tiny bomb shelter with suffocating tension. You never feel as though the protagonists are safe at any moment from Goodman’s character, and that tension never lets go in its 90-minute runtime. Hell, I even like the ending! 10 Cloverfield Lane is a promising debut for director Dan Trachtenberg, and I’m excited to see what he does next. 8. The Neon Demon Nicholas Winding Refn certainly tends to get a rise out of people, doesn’t he? Except for Drive, I guess, discussions of his films are usually split one way or another, and there is never a unanimous agreement on whether his films are good or not. When it comes to The Neon Demon, I lean towards the film being awesome. I was hypnotized by the dreamlike atmosphere presented by Cliff Martinez’ haunting score, and Natasha Brier’s colorful cinematography, as well as its use of symbols and visuals to tell its bonkers story of a teenage girl getting in way over her head into a world she doesn’t fully understand, and then descending into hell. It’s not a film for everyone, but it was definitely for me. The film also has a surprisingly awesome and weird performance by Keanu Reeves, so it gets bonus points for that. 7. The Nice Guys If Shane Black could turn the amount of pure style that he puts into his films and convert it into a food source, he’d be able to solve world hunger. This is even more apparent in The Nice Guys, a purely concentrated pulpy noir-comedy set in the backdrop of a nostalgic 1970’s Los Angeles. There’s not as much Christmas as you’d expect in a Shane Black film, but there’s more than plenty of quotable banter between the unlikely duo, convoluted mysteries, unpredictability, and just pure tight direction and execution of scenes. You don’t see zippy mid-budget action comedies like this anymore. If this were to come out in the 90’s, Russell Crowe’s character would be played by Bruce Willis and Ryan Gosling’s would be played by…Woody Harrelson maybe? Anyway, I’m glad Shane Black hasn’t lost his style, because he created one of the funniest and exciting films of the year. 6. Hell or High Water The lesson I get out of these terrific modern day westerns is that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” You could copy and paste the story of this film and set it in 1856, and I doubt much of Taylor Sheridan’s excellent screenplay would change. However, the film is set in modern day and it feels incredibly relevant. Set in economically desperate small towns of rural Texas, this film shines a light on how the modern day economy has left many small towns in that area desolate and scrambling to get by, and serves as a unique backdrop for our protagonists and antagonists. Speaking of which, what I love about this film is that it smartly doesn’t present the thief protagonists (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), and the State Trooper antagonist as straight good or evil. Both sides have reasonable motivations you can get behind, and no one is really a bad person, so the interpretation of who the protagonists and antagonists really are is up to the viewer. It’s an excellent modern western full of great performances that I would recommend to everyone, and I’m glad it’s getting the award recognition it deserves. 5. The Invitation Now, admittedly, this isn’t one of the best movies that have come out in the past year on a technical level, but goddamn did this movie leave me devastated. Maybe it’s because I empathize with the subject matter; I’ve witnessed something like this happen first hand, but god damn, did it still hit me hard. It was like an emotional flash bang went off next to my ear. It didn’t hit me in a manipulative way, like a Lifetime movie would try to do. It’s superbly effective at grabbing you by the neck in the very beginning of the movie, slowly tightening its grip as it moves along to the point where you can’t breathe, let’s you go at the very end, and then punches you in the gut. It’s bleak, suspenseful, heart wrenching and a terrific film all around. I don’t really want to mention what it’s about because I believe it will be more effective going in blind. It’s on Netflix and it’s absolutely worth giving a watch, and it absolutely deserves a spot in my top 5. 4. Green Room If you’re familiar with the programming of Story Screen, you’ll know this is a film that’s been shown in the past, and you know, it could be shown again and again and again, and I would be all for it. Of all the films that are on this list, Green Room is the movie that I’ve watched the most, and it holds up tremendously with each viewing - from the details in the environment that make it feel alive and genuine, to the subtleties of performances from Sir Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair, and the late Anton Yelchin, as well as the film’s powerful use of violence. This is a film that does so much in such a small setting that it would be criminal not to give Jeremy Saulnier and crew the proper credit they deserve. If you wanna know more about what Green Room does so well, read my brother’s article about it on this very website here. 3. The VVitch This was one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater in 2016. After walking out as the credits rolled, I knew right then and there that this was going to be a hard movie to top. Holy shit, I could go on and write multiple articles dissecting how much of a miracle this film is. It seems like there’s a lot of A24 films on this list, and that might make it look like I’m biased towards them, but I’m really not. They just happen to fund and produce excellent films! I really have to thank them for taking the chance with first time director Robert Eggers to fund and distribute his film, because he somehow created a horror masterpiece on his first try. What The VVitch gets so right that most horror films get wrong is the consistent sense of paranoia and dread throughout the story. You never know who’s going to turn on who, who’s going to snap first, and if what they’re afraid of is actually real or a product of their hallucinations due to isolation. Much like The Invitation, it grabs you by the throat at the beginning of the film and doesn’t let go until it ends. What sets it above The Invitation, is its high quality of acting across the board, especially from child actors Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson, as well as its authentic 1630’s New England setting, delivering an eerie and paranoid tone. People have complained that horror has gone downhill in recent years. To that, I say: watch The VVitch; it is probably the best horror film released since The Shining. 2. Arrival I firmly believe Denis Villeneuve is one of the best new filmmakers of the 21st century. Every film he’s directed (Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) has blown my mind in one way or another, and Arrival is no exception. Take a premise that’s as old as filmmaking itself: Aliens visiting Earth, and mix it with a haunting, poetic, and beautiful story about the potential of humanity, and what it can accomplish when it works together to achieve a common goal. Arrival gave me a new outlook on communication and language, what it means to communicate with one another, how we do it, WHY we do it, and it accomplished telling its story with grace and maturity. Its cerebral ideas kept me up at night, while its emotional core – anchored by the layered performances of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, as well as a chilling score by Johann Johannson – kept me invested and moved by the characters and their actions. Not many films have accomplished both of those at the same time, not even 2001: A Space Odyssey, in my opinion. I recommend Arrival to anyone and everyone. It’s a beautiful film that I’m sure will be referred to as a Science Fiction classic for years to come. 1. Swiss Army Man I’ve never seen anything quite like Swiss Army Man. While the rest of my Top 10 are tremendous films in their own right, they also fit into their respective genres. The VVitch is a terrific horror film, Arrival is a terrific Sci-Fi drama, The Nice Guys is a terrific Action Comedy, etc. But where should I put Swiss Army Man? Is it a Comedy? Is it Fantasy? Is it a Surrealist film? Is it a Musical? It’s all those genres and best of all, it’s completely original. I’m not giving it high praises just because it’s original, however. I’m giving it high praises because it affected me in so many ways. It made me think about what it means to be alive, and what you can do with your short amount of time on this earth, even if that means just making an impact on one other human being’s life. It brought up excellent points about what it means to be “weird” and strange. Why does society demonize those that just want to be different? Why does being “weird” have to be such a bad thing in the eyes of others? Why can’t we just embrace new ideas? Why does society make you feel so alone for being different? These are all aspects of my own life that I’ve struggled with since I was a little kid obsessed with shows, movies, and other offbeat shit that my peers were perplexed by, and Swiss Army Man emulates those feelings through Hank and Manny so goddamn perfectly. Swiss Army Man made me laugh hysterically, tear up either through joy or sadness, and feel genuine excitement with what was going to happen next. I didn’t want Hank and Manny’s journey to end. Sure, it’s a bit (okay, a lot) different to a lot of people’s sensibilities when it comes to movies, but isn’t that exactly what movies are about? Taking a creative vision and applying it through visuals and sound to create a story? Why can’t a film be about a farting corpse? What rules say that can’t work? In Swiss Army Man’s case, it works perfectly, and it is my favorite film of 2016. If you want to read more about this wonderful film, please read Mike Burdge’s article from a couple months back here. Jeremy Kolodziejski Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95 #JeremyKolodziejski #Newsletter #Articles #Top10 #2016

  • Diana's Top 10 Films of 2016

    2016 was rough. It knocked me down more times than I would like to remember. And in times of strife, I often go to the movies. The films of 2016 helped me deal. While some allowed me to escape, others reminded me of my own sadness and allowed me to cope (or not), along with the movie’s main characters. There are common themes between the movies in my “Top Ten” for 2016: grief, loneliness, friendship, love, hope and “growing up.” But while these quantifiers of the human experience prevail, there are also the films of 2016 that were just plain terrifying. Here we go: 10. The VVitch Part of what makes Robert Eggers’ The VVitch so scary is its isolation. A family shunned from society, living on the outskirts of a desolate wilderness in Puritan times is terrifying enough. Now add baby snatching and a goat named Black Phillip. Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Thomasin, the daughter accused of witchcraft. 9. The Lobster I am including The Lobster, in my group of “just plain terrifying” films of 2016. With an amazing cast – John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw are both painfully hilarious – the film starts out with an extremely dry sense of humor, but by the its end, you are destroyed by the potential fates of main characters played by Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. 8. Kubo and the Two Strings Laika Animation’s latest is a dark tale. Kubo, a one-eyed Japanese boy, takes care of his ailing mother, who occasionally shows signs of her former self while retelling stories of his father, a great warrior. There is a palpable loneliness and earnest dedication to the character of Kubo, watching his mother grasp at her fading memories. To raise money he busks in the local village, but his mother warns that must return home before nightfall or else his grandfather, the Moon King, (along with Kubo’s terrifying twin Aunts) will return for his other eye. The stop-motion animation in Kubo is amazing, demonstrated when its title character, playing a guitar-like shamisen, brings origami to life. The musical score by Dario Marianelli is complex and beautiful, and features Regina Spektor’s cover of the Beatles, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” 7. Joshy Based on the trailer alone, Joshy looks like a hysterical film about a friends weekend of drinking and debauchery. It features a great ensemble cast, including: Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate and Thomas Middleditch, as Joshy. The actual movie is way more sobering, as Josh’s friends try to help him forget the circumstances that ended his recent wedding engagement. His two friends, played by Adam Pally and Alex Ross Perry, do a pretty terrific job of stealing the show. But it is Middleditch as Joshy, who really delivers, with his best performance since All’s Fair. 6. Don’t Think Twice I’m a huge Mike Birbiglia fan. More so than hilarious at standup, Birbiglia is an excellent storyteller. His previous film, Sleepwalk With Me really lent itself to his first person narration. In Don’t Think Twice, he takes control as solo director, in this film about an Improv group. While the movie focuses primarily on the stories of Samantha (Gillian Jacobs) and Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), the rest of the troupe each has their own plight, struggling to make it big, or “grow up” and realize different goals. 5. Manchester By the Sea This film is sad, but not over the top, dramatic; it’s real life sad. This is best displayed by Casey Affleck’s understated performance as main character, Lee Chandler. Asked to take care of his nephew, Patrick (in a standout performance by Lucas Hedges), after his brother dies, Lee must return to his old hometown to handle funeral arrangements and deal with his past. Affleck plays Lee as a shell of a man. We see fragments of his former self told through flashbacks, spliced throughout the story without warning. As we glean more and more information, we are finally confronted with why Lee is the way he is. But despite the intense sorrow, the film is peppered with scenes of hilarity and everyday normalcy, as Lee spends time with Patrick, a boy with, “two girlfriends and a band.” The scenes between Lee and Patrick are some of my favorite in the movie. And although the characters in Manchester are never totally healed, we see progress, and recognition of the fact that everything may not be okay. 4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople I love director Taika Waititi. Do yourself a favor and start watching all his films: Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, and now, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. With a larger budget, Waititi shoots in his native New Zealand, showing off amazing scenery, an awesome soundtrack and legendary Sam Neill, as Hec, the crotchety, adopted “uncle” to Julian Dennison’s Ricky Baker. A city kid wanted by Child Protective Services, Ricky flees to the New Zealand bush and quickly realizes he can’t make it on his own. Hec finds him and adventure ensues. This movie made me laugh out loud the most times of anything I saw in the theater in 2016. Like I said before, do yourself a favor. 3. Moonlight Moonlight is intense. As it chronicles the life of Chiron, we witness three different actors portray him at various points in his life. Chiron is often silent and thoughtful, allowing more to be said by a glance than a whole string of dialogue. Although he is only in the early part of the film, Mahershala Ali is amazing as the drug dealing father figure to Little, (the youngest version of Chiron), whose own mother, (played by an equally excellent Naomie Harris), is an addict. Little knows he is different. As he ages, we see teenage Chiron come to the realization that he is gay through an encounter with a friend he has known since childhood. In that moment, we feel as Chiron feels: not alone. What happens next shapes the portrayal of adult Chiron (now known as Black). The tenderness and longing we see in each incarnation of the same character as he struggles to grow up and find his place in the world is devastating. 2. La La Land A good musical stays with you days after you see it. Humming songs you don’t yet know all the words to, or tapping your fingers to their rhythms. After seeing La La Land a second time, its original songs have become fairly cemented in my mind. Damien Chazelle builds off his previous film, Whiplash, and uses jazz as a way to translate love and hope. He does his best to recreate the fabulous movie musicals of the golden age of Hollywood, down to their long takes and color palette. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are neither professional dancers nor singers, but their performances are earnest and heartfelt, as lovers who push each other to realize their dreams and be their best selves. But the music is what ties it all together, haunting you long after the film is over, and dang, composer Justin Hurwitz does the job. 1. Swiss Army Man Paul Dano plays Hank, a lonely man on the verge of suicide, and Daniel Radcliffe is Manny, the farting corpse that saves his life. This movie starts out as one big fart joke but the Daniels, (directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert); create a beautiful, deeply affecting movie. The soundtrack, which incorporates singing and sound effects made by its two main characters, adds to the epic experience of this film. It’s no surprise that the Daniels have a background in creating music videos when you watch sequences like the one during the song, “Montage.” The film tackles the message that love is possible when you can be yourself, and that you’re finally able to be your most honest self when you are loved. Daniel Radcliffe was quoted in an interview as saying, “We lure them in with farts and then we attack them with heart!” A truer statement could not be made. Diana DiMuro Besides watching movies, Diana likes the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school drop out. IG: @dldimuro #Articles #Newsletter #2016 #Top10 #DianaDiMuro

  • BaeBae’s Top 5 Movies of 2016

    Let's talk about what a “Top 5” list means: first, the distinction between “best” and “favorite” is very important. There is no perfect movie. There are movies that venture close, but none can truly be perfect by nature; they are art and art is subject to opinion. Now let’s talk about “favorite.” The reasons why I choose to like, love, hate or despise a movie is complicated, and most likely derives from deep-seeded complications with my childhood or love life. What I’m trying to say is: these are some of my favorite cinematic experiences of this year. Everyone likes a movie for different reasons, and you’re all entitled to your opinion. Unless you think Batman v Superman was a good movie, in which case I am judging you and think you are an insane person. Alright, let's get into it… Honorable Mention: The Jungle Book The 1967 cartoon version of The Jungle Book was never my childhood favorite. I watched it like everyone else did growing up, but young little BaeBae was more about The Lion King and Aladdin. After seeing director Jon Favreau’s interpretation of the story, this has become one of my favorite Disney movies. Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is one of the best on-screen villains I’ve ever seen. All of the characters, excluding Mowgli, are digitally created, and the quality of their design is unprecedented. The Jungle Book is a movie that grabs you from the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the credits. This movie gives me faith in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King in years to come. 5. Don’t Think Twice For full disclosure: one of my many passions in life is Improv Comedy. I’ve been taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) for the past year and have fallen in love with the art form that encourages being a dingus on stage. Don’t Think Twice boasts a great cast of UCB alums and is a painfully accurate portrayal of what this comedy culture is like. It’s both a very accessible movie, for newcomers to the art of Improv, and a movie for people like me, an aspiring improviser. 4. Arrival Arrival’s execution is immaculate. The plot is huge. First alien contact is a tried and true trope, but its scope is narrow; we experience the entire story through Louise Banks’ (Amy Adams) point of view. The film is all about communication and language. There’s no giant space battles here, and that’s why I enjoyed the film so much. It was an intimate sci-fi story. The major “twist” of the film is excellent, and will make you want to view it again and again. 3. Rogue One I feel strange throwing this movie on the list, not because it wasn’t amazing or deserving of its acclaim, but did I love Rogue One, or do I just love Star Wars? Have I become poisoned by its nostalgia? Regardless of my existential crisis on the matter, I really did feel like a ten year-old watching this movie and that’s hard to do. Our benevolent leader here at Story Screen, Mike Burdge, likes to call movies like this “popcorn.” You get what you get and you know what you’re getting even before you get it. It's how you get it that's important. This Star Wars flick had things I’ve always wanted to see in this universe. A side-step in the typical Skywalker family drama that gives us a war film. A dark, brutal war film. 2. Swiss Army Man Swiss Army Man is a movie I’ve always wanted to exist, but never thought would. When I heard the mumblings of a movie featuring Daniel Radcliffe playing a farting corpse, I was smiling from ear to ear at the premise. The movie successfully stays aloof and strange while also grounding the action of the film in real human emotion. It’s a ridiculous notion, to make an audience empathize with a corpse for an hour and half, but that’s exactly what this movie is, ridiculous. 1. The Lobster Though it came out towards the end of 2015 in Ireland, we here in the States didn’t get to see the flick until 2016, so I’m throwing it on the list because: ‘Murica. Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist look into the idea of love is one of the most viscerally uncomfortable movies I’ve ever sat through. After viewing the flick, I left feeling like someone tore my heart out and calmly said, “Welp, you’re not gonna need this anymore.” This is exactly why it’s the number one movie on my list. One of the objectives of a film is to elicit emotions from a viewer. The Lobster makes you feel dread, despite being a story about love. Without spoiling the film, I will say that there is a moment of hope for these characters, but even then it is painfully stripped away by the film’s conclusion, leaving you with your jaw to the floor and in need of a hug. Robert Anderson Robert has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter @RoBaeBae #2016 #Top5 #Articles #Newsletter #RobertAnderson

  • A Life in La La Land

    (This article contains spoilers for La La Land.) All forms of art possess an innate ability to create retrospective and spur forethought. These modes of thinking can lead to criticisms of anything and everything, most often critiques of childhood, relationships, and career paths. Each genre of film is a lens by which to see the world, and while there are countless hybrids of genres, Hollywood sure does love a mirror. While more common in film’s earlier stages, Hollywood has been romanticizing and vilifying itself since its inception. From Behind the Screen to Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain to The Player, and even 2016’s Hail, Caesar!, filmmakers love using the art of their craft as a means to explore themes and relationships. The Hollywood genre is rife with self-discovery, leading to success and fulfillment or failure and denial. Damien Chazelle explores the struggles of commitment and the torture it takes to follow a dream in his 2014 film, Whiplash. While he does not shy away from the psychological trauma suffered to pursue the profession of a jazz percussionist, he uses the thriller lens to focus on the physical torture of chasing said dream. His 2016 musical film, La La Land, instead explores a journey from fantasy to reality, and the pain that comes with it. Not only do his protagonists sacrifice years and self-respect to the Hollywood gods, they sacrifice the film itself and all the whimsical scenes they share to “make it.” La La Land is a beautiful testament to transcending what Hollywood teaches audiences to accept as the path to a perfect life. La La Land opens on a busy Los Angeles highway with a rousing musical number about every new day being an opportunity to catch that coveted big break. Its optimistic mantra, “Another Day of Sun,” implores those dreamers that even if today didn’t work out, there’s always one more day. The mood is seemingly broken at the conclusion of the first number with honks of car horns and shouts of frustrated road rage at the gridlock surrounding the ensemble cast. But never fear, there’s another musical number to explain your big break could be right around the corner (if you’re in the right crowd, to schmooze the right person at the right time). When Sebastian, an aggravated jazz musician, and Mia, an undervalued and aspiring actress, finally share a conversation, they are forced to confront their approaches to success. Unchallenged, both are almost at the end of their creative journeys. Together, they vow to upend the system and write themselves into a script that fits them, instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along. The pursuit of artistic integrity is an amalgam of intent and reception. Both protagonists value intent and reception to various degrees. From birth, we are raised to perform to the best of our abilities, but are always plagued by at least a small degree of fear that our actions won’t be well-received. It is this fear that inhibits action, and we do well to have those in our lives that challenge us and prompt us to act. La La Land confronts this fear by having two characters who speak to both sides of reasoning. Although it is important to have something original or insightful to add to the ongoing conversation of life, it is equally important to throw caution to the wind and not give a damn about inevitable criticisms. La La Land isn’t any different from a lot of films in that it does set up its third act to be the reconciliation of a failure, but it flips the script by presenting an alternate reality to the typical romantic ending. La La Land urges its audience to have a romantic experience with life and not be limited to the romances of only partners or careers and the conception of the “perfect ending.” Sebastian stresses his love of jazz comes from the endless possibilities it presents. He embraces the improvisation of life and helps Mia see that a lack of control can be the ticket to artistic freedom. The audition that scores Mia her breakthrough role is an improvised story she tells about her aunt who lived in Paris. She sings, “Here's to the ones who dream, crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that break. Here’s to the mess we make.” The course we think we need to be on is frequently not the one that gets us to our desired destination. Mia repays Sebastian by teaching him along the way, that catering to a crowd doesn’t necessarily mean the death of his creative freedom. There can be a merger between the two: intent and reception. Both help the other to achieve complete career satisfaction. Retrospection breeds a wonder of what could have been if we would have done even one thing differently. After five years apart, Sebastian and Mia see each other again, and are thrust into a romanticized version of their realistic relationship. Each scene is echoed, through music from when they first met, to when they eventually parted ways, and even beyond. La La Land does not discredit the relationship they shared or the way they made each other feel, even though they ultimately do not end up together. The film speaks to the beauty in each step in life that gets us to the next. We’re all on different paths that lead to different destinations, and it’s okay (even necessary) to feel a sense of whimsy every now and then. With today’s political, social, and cultural climates, Hollywood’s infinite lenses can provide a much needed break from reality. La La Land is a great distraction: just remember to come back down. Bernadette Gorman Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes. #Review #Newsletter #2016 #BernadetteGorman #LaLaLand

  • Jack's Favorite Films of 2016

    Listen, 2016 has been a real turd of a year and my memory is not as good as it once was (it was never good). So, presented here (in no particular order) are five movies that even at the end of December 2016, still stand out as memorable. The Lobster The Lobster is not a fun movie. There’s a fair argument that the film actively challenges you to enjoy its two-hour runtime. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to admit that I actually enjoyed watching it. However, the one-two gut punch of this movie’s midpoint and finale left me reeling in a way that I rarely experience from film. Coupled with humor so bone-dry and dark as the night that it could break even the toughest skin, The Lobster, left an impression that still haunts me months later. Arrival Arrival’s heady brand of sci-fi expertly postulates the question of first alien contact with a far out metaphysical twist that sunk in deep. How would we ever communicate with extraterrestrial beings whose very principle understanding of reality may seem foreign to us? Would the governments of the world remain peaceful and cordial, or react to invaders with itchy trigger fingers? With a twist that may leave certain literature fans with a familiar “ah-ha” moment, (I won’t name the book, just to avoid spoilers) Arrival delivers an emotionally heavy story in conjunction with a hard sci-fi setting that fills a similar niche to last year’s Ex Machina, another of my favorites. Swiss Army Man The surreal nature of Swiss Army Man presents a story that blurs the line between delusion and magic. You’re never quite sure whether the events that unfold are all in the mind of a very sick, very lonely person, or if Daniel Radcliffe's farting corpse actually has magical survival abilities. And that’s exactly where the beauty of this film lies. Ultimately for Paul Dano, the film’s lead protagonist, it doesn’t matter whether or not his conversations with this corpse are real. To him, he’s found a true source of love, compassion, and friendship in a world that has otherwise rejected him. For me, that’s a pretty warm message, especially for a year that I think left the majority of us in dire need of a hug. Bone Tomahawk Bone Tomahawk saw limited release among festivals in 2015, but only gained wide release when it landed on Amazon Prime in 2016, so I’m counting it. Bone Tomahawk expertly blends the lines between western and horror, creating a genre mash-up that practically has my name stamped right on it. Kurt Russell’s grizzled lead chews scenery and slings six-guns like he was born on the back of a horse. The design of the horrific troglodytes is nightmarish, and the use of gore is incredibly effective while remaining restrained and tactful. There’s a real sense of tension and danger throughout that leaves an unrelenting feeling of unease. On top of all that, I’d challenge anyone to come up with a name harder than Bone Tomahawk. The VVitch That thing I said about no particular order to this list? That was a lie. The VVitch is my #1 movie of 2016 by a very, very wide margin. I rarely watch movies more than once, and I hardly make it out to theaters anymore. I saw The Witch in theaters three times. The film oozes with atmosphere brought to life by Robert Eggers’ washed out color pallet and haunting soundtrack that provides the feeling of starving to death in the harsh New England winter. Seeds of cancerous paranoia plague the characters as they turn on each other, one by one, in the same religious hysteria that caused the Salem Witch Trials. The Victorian English is beautiful to listen to, and the hushed, rapid dialogue left me picking up more and more detail with each successive watch. The VVitch was not only my favorite movie of 2016, but has firmly solidified itself amongst my all time favorites. Jack Kolodziejski Jack makes drugs for a living, but not necessarily the fun kind. He enjoys international travel and discussing music, movies, and games in excruciating detail. #2016 #Top5 #Articles #Newsletter #JackKolodziejski

  • Edward Scissorhands: And I Will Bring the Ambrosia Salad

    In a strange nameless town in Nowhere, USA, with streets lined with Barbadian-style homes, a gothic Frankenstein pops a suburban bubble with an innocent prick of his scissor-hands. In a true testament to the filmmaker, this cultic fable presents itself as pure entertainment, but below the surface, the message slowly rises in suspense to keep its viewers engaged until the very end, going beyond the typical confines of its genre. Though Edward Scissorhands may seem like another phantasmagoric Tim Burton film, it is unexpectedly profound, full of stark symbolism as a commentary on American culture. On a planet of stifled creativity and individuality, there is bound to be a clash between two worlds: the outcasts and the conformists. Each character represents various overarching facets of society - the Pariah, the Pollyanna, the exploiter, the bully, the growing teenager struggling to uphold social expectations, etc. which all serve as important players in a symbiotic civilization. This factor on its own, ever so slightly roots the story in reality at its most basic state. Collectively, the townspeople are the personification of the fear of judgment of others in the struggle to conform. The film’s mise en scene of panoramic shots capturing both the pastel town and Edward’s dark and bizarre mansion sets the narrative: a looming fear of the outside world penetrating an isolated world of sterility. It’s clear that Burton placed a lot of value on the importance of viewer perspective to act as a platform for conceptual thought that exists beyond the script. Intimate shots of Peg, (the surrogate of a mother he never had) and Edward, imply that they exist on a similar wavelength in the same world, the difference being Peg’s desperate grasp at uniformity hides the fact that her values fundamentally differ from her neighbors’. As opposed to being portrayed as a true monster, the contrast of Edward’s shocking appearance paired with close up shots of his wistful eyes, his scarred face and his whisper of a voice, reinforce the fact that eccentricity is often feared, though it is largely harmless. Throughout the film, Edward accidentally cuts himself or others in an expression of emotional pain, and though they eventually scar over, he is still marked with the memories of prejudice and rejection. Initially, his “handicap” appeals to the community’s self-centered sensibilities, and he is therefore regarded as “exceptional.” Yet later on in the film, his arrest for a framed robbery attempt is the beginning of his decline, and the true starting point of his failure to fit in. He is subsequently deemed untrustworthy and a threat to the town’s hollow lifestyle. The constant attention from nosy neighbors slowly shifts from amazement and intrigue to harmful rumors that threaten the Boggs’ livelihood and Edward’s physical safety. In a moment of chaos, the police sergeant makes the choice to lie to the town, telling them that Edward is “taken care of,” while secretly letting him go free. He understands that people conform out of a need for security, but that the world can be dangerous for those who penetrate those barriers. In allowing Edward to retreat back to his home, he sends the message that it is better to exist in a place where you’re free to be yourself. This scene in particular stands out because it is one of the very few moments of intimacy between two characters, because eavesdroppers and gossipers are always within earshot. It is a moment of mutual understanding, and it is first time throughout the entire film that someone breaks through the facade and really communicates with Edward on a personal level. The movie comes across as crazy: a gothic outcast with scissors for hands in a colorful town full of nutty, intolerant, busybodies, eating 1960’s Jell-O party ambrosia salad. Peppered throughout the film are scenes of Edward, wielding his scissor-hands as hair shears, creating masterful ice sculptures and pruning the neighbor’s bushes into dinosaurs. The true underlying theme of the film becomes apparent within the last ten minutes, when Kim realizes that she loves Edward, even though he is regarded as some kind of freak, leading her to reject both the town and their values which speaks to the moral of the story: that “different” is not a bad word. Though chased from the town with fire and pitchforks, Edward undoubtedly left his mark. When he retreats, it snows for the very first time in town and continues every year after, essentially making people realize that change is an unavoidable fact of life. Oftentimes, the best films are those that can be simultaneously weird and entertaining, while acting as a tool to discuss the world at large. Whether you’re seeking entertainment or substance, Edward Scissorhands has the ability to satisfy the cinematographic desires of any and all moviegoers. Amanda Spinosa Amanda is an artist/writer with a degree in visual and critical studies from the School of Visual Arts, though 90% of her day is spent looking at pictures of dogs. Instagram: @spin.osa #EdwardScissorhands #December #AmandaSpinosa #Newsletter #Review

  • Lethal Weapon: A Bullet Through the Eggnog

    A family man who’s, “Getting too old for this shit,” and a suicidal, ex-special forces operative, attempt to solve the mysterious death of a banker's daughter in Richard Donner’s infamous buddy cop action flick, Lethal Weapon. The film has all the makings of your typical action movie - drugs, shootouts, catch phrases, martial arts, explosions - all wrapped up neatly with a Christmas bow. But why the holiday setting? This isn’t some arbitrary Hollywood move of “Hey, the movie comes out during the holiday season so let’s throw some Santa’s in there." The choice appears to be deliberate; Lethal Weapon was released March 6th, 1987, months after the holiday season. The film constantly reminds you that it’s Christmas: from playing Jingle Bells over the opening title screen, to its ending on Christmas day. It’s a theme that’s so strangely at odds with the actual plot of the movie that you wonder why it’s even there at all. If you take out the holiday decorations, the occasional Santas and the Jingle Bells, the plot of Lethal Weapon remains the same: two cops trying to solve a suicide case who stumble onto something greater. So again: why is the film trying to tell us it’s Christmastime? The film is set in Los Angeles, which I’d imagine to be a strange place during the holiday season. L.A.’s hot climate and lack of snow seems (at least to myself, a New Yorker) strange. Even visually, to see folks wearing shorts and t-shirts amongst holiday décor is an odd juxtaposition. Christmas in L.A. is a battle of tropes; this perhaps speaks to the duality between buddy-cop power-couple, Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). Murtaugh is a family man, a cop who plays by the rules, but more importantly he’s happy. He’s the “Christmas." Riggs on the other hand is suicidal; he’s a loose-cannon narcotics officer with a history of being trigger-happy. He has no fear; after his wife’s death, he has nothing left to lose. He’s the “Los Angeles." This mismatching of characters creates a sort of yin and yang between the two. The film on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily find the same harmony as a Christmas-wrapped action movie. As much as the film is trying to tell us it’s Christmastime, its other major element is suicide. The film's inciting incident is the suicide of banker, Michael Hunsaker’s (Tom Atkins) troubled daughter-turned-prostitute, Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson). This death sets the plot into motion. We are also constantly reminded that Riggs himself is suicidal. In a scene (that’s far too good to actually be in this ridiculous movie) Riggs puts a gun in his mouth and cries as he contemplates suicide. Later in the film we have back-to-back suicide attempts. Riggs and Murtaugh respond to a "jumper" and Riggs saves the man’s life by making them both jump off of the building into a safety net. The next scene features Riggs confessing to Murtaugh his own suicidal thoughts, almost pulling the trigger on himself in front of a painted storefront window saying, “Everything must go.” When Riggs confronts the jumper on the roof, he tries to calm him down by saying, “A lot of people have problems, especially during this silly season.” This line may reveal why suicide is so prevalent in the film. A common myth about the holiday season (that a few searches on google can disprove) is that suicide rates skyrocket during this time of year. Perhaps Lethal Weapon is trying to show us the ugly side of the holiday season. In a time sugar-coated with happiness, there are people among us who are depressed, there are people who are experiencing great loss, there’s no stopping the cold reality of everyday life. As most action movies tend to do, the last two-thirds of Lethal Weapon is an orgy of violence abandoning a lot of its holiday motifs - excluding the death of Michael Hunsaker: he gets shot in the back and the bullet exits through a half-gallon of eggnog he’s holding (it’s literally the best thing I’ve ever seen). The film ends on a happy note. Riggs is invited over to the Murtaugh household for Christmas dinner and gives his partner a gift: the hollow point bullet he was saving for his suicide, claiming he doesn’t need it anymore. So why is this movie set during Christmastime? It’s cheesy, but I think it’s what saves Riggs’ life. The gift of friendship between these two cops saves Riggs. The holiday spirit is somewhere deeply hidden in Lethal Weapon, you just have to take out a few drug lords to find it. Robert Anderson Robert has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter @RoBaeBae #LethalWeapon #RobertAnderson #December #Newsletter #Review

  • Scrooged: Bah! Humbug!

    At this time of year, when it seems rampant consumerism has usurped the spirit of Christmas, it helps take the edge off to watch a movie whose message is, “put a little love in your heart.” An updated take on the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, is a campy tale of redemption and holiday cheer with a dark sense of humor. Bill Murray is in his element as cold-blooded television executive, Frank Cross. Cross views Christmas as a marketing gimmick to be exploited for ratings and profit. When a soft-spoken employee suggests that the network’s promo for a live Christmas Eve special might scare people, Cross fires him and cancels his Christmas bonus. He gifts the majority of his friends and employees hand towels, including his younger brother. Cross brings selfishness to new heights of absurdity in his black high-rise office and he seems to enjoy it. Visited by the ghost of his former boss, Cross is warned that he’ll meet a fiery end if he doesn’t change his ways. Forced to relive the pain and joy of Christmas’ past with a foulmouthed cabbie, and knocked senseless by a fairy in the present, the film is a wild ride of highs and lows. The guiding light of Cross’ redemption is his old flame Claire, a humanitarian sweetheart who calls him “Lumpy.” Part of what makes Scrooged so enjoyable is nostalgia – a time when VCR’s were an expensive novelty, and offices had both stocked bars and full-time secretaries. Murray is by turns charming and frightening as Cross, but always a delightful miscreant. At its heart, the story of Christmas is one of salvation. Cross finds his own through his love for others and isn’t that just what Christmas should be about? Liz Velez Liz has a background in film & television production and has worked with NBC, Comedy Central, VH1, and Spotify. Her interests include diversity/representation in media, gender & sexuality politics, social justice and the impact of pop culture in shaping popular opinion. She also slays at drunken karaoke. You can follow her on Twitter @telitlikeitliz #Scrooged #December #Newsletter #LizVelez #BillMurray #Review

  • Little Shop of Horrors: Suddenly See More

    Little Shop of Horrors is one of the greatest musical-films of all time. Period. The campiness, humor, look, tone and its execution of most musical tropes are unparalleled, even with the tongue-firmly-in-cheek world of off-branded musicals like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sweeney Todd and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Its power is almost limitless, from the opening title crawl, to the final wink at the audience; Little Shop of Horrors performs above and beyond expectations of a musical that is generally referred to as, “the story of a boy, a girl and a man-eating plant.” Based on the 1960 film, The Little Shop of Horrors and an Off-Off-Broadway play, which shared the dropping of the word “The” from its title, the 1986 film blended aspects from both mediums to form its story about a hapless flower shop assistant, the girl he adores, his boss, a demented sadist who works as a dentist and the mysterious plant that brings them all together or eats them. (Fun fact: the original 1960 film is considered a huge joke in the film world as it was made on the basis of a dare to see if a film could be shot in 2 days. It was. And that fact is gloriously apparent when you watch it). Howard Ashman, the writer of the original play, penned the script that Frank Oz brought to the screen. With a supporting cast of awesome cameos including: John Candy, Bill Murray and Christopher Guest (!!!), it almost feels more like a sketch comedy show with an overarching story that connects all the gags together. I would watch an entire movie of just Steve Martin’s sadistic, Orin Scrivello, DDS and Bill Murray’s masochistic Arthur Denton. Christopher Guest’s short appearance is almost too funny to watch and Jim Belushi’s late turn-up as licensing schmuck Patrick Martin, is the very definition of forced climax, but done with enough charm and bravado that it still plays honestly with the setting and characters involved. While the main stars are all wonderful (you’ll never hear a bad word from my lips or fingertips about Rick Moranis; the man is a machine of comedic timing and grace), all love and admiration has to go to Ellen Greene’s, Audrey (I). She is such a great character and presence, and Greene executes her with almost zero show of trying. It all just seems so natural, even though you know no one would talk like that and no one would possibly be comfortable wearing that! Her singing voice is unique and still hits all the right notes (both musically and true to the character), but when she finally lets the chords out to play in “Suddenly Seymour,” you can practically see the show stopping. It’s no surprise that Greene was the originator of the Audrey character in the musical play version and was the only actor brought from the medium into the film version. The producers and filmmakers involved just didn’t believe there could possibly be someone out there that could do it better. They even considered Barbara Streisand for the role, but decided against it. Barbara Streisand! In 1986! That’s chops, man. Then there’s the practically mind-numbing practical effects of Audrey II, the Levi Stubbs-voiced plant that causes all this mayhem. More than fifty performers were required to operate the multiple different versions of Audrey II, from cables in vines, to lip and head movement and more. Director Frank Oz was very particular about the mouth lining up with Stubbs dialogue and singing; he didn’t want any “hamburger flapping” when it came to audiences watching the performance. This proved insanely difficult for creature developers and performers alike, but the final product is stunning, and remains visually captivating even 30 years later. Audrey II feels real and alive, just as any of the other human performers do. Lastly, let’s talked about the famed alternate ending. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you skip over to Youtube and look it up. It’s something else, alright. Oz originally intended to have the film share the Broadway musical’s ending, in which our two lovers are eaten by the evil space plant, who then proceeds to conquer the world. The final shot of multiple Audrey II’s ascending the Statue of Liberty while fighting off Army helicopters is one of the coolest things I never even thought I’d see. And if that sentence didn’t just give you goose-bumps, wake up, man. This is what life is all about. Apparently, the deaths of Seymour and Audrey (I) were so devastating to test audiences that Oz was forced to scrap the original finale, which cost over 5 million dollars (!!!) to make in the first place, and replace it with the happier ending that we’ve all come to know and love. Is either ending superior to the other? It’s tough to say. While the “happy ending” is perfect in its’ own regard, the effects-work and the cheeky darkness of the original ending is just too charming and, frankly, fucking cool to be beat. I can’t imagine how hard it was for everyone involved to scrap such a joyful, crazy ending. C’est la vie. All and all, the question of if Little Shop of Horrors still stands up today, 30 years after its original release upon the unsuspecting world, isn’t really even a needed question. The film being set in the 1960’s allows for its timelessness to stay just that. All the jokes still land, the performances are all incredible and memorable and the songs are still as catchy as ever. And it also contains one of this writer’s personal favorite moments in film: when Seymour and Audrey (II) see Scrivello hit Audrey (I) and realize that he sure looks like plant food to them. Absolutely engaging on every level. It’s just that timeless. Mike Burdge Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He lives in Beacon, NY with his cat who is named after Kevin Bacon's character from Friday the 13th. #December #LittleShopofHorrors #MusicalComedy #MikeBurdge #Newsletter #feedme #Review

  • Krampus and the Balance of Scares and Laughs

    When it comes to Christmas movies catered towards adults, there are usually two extremes: your raunchy comedies like Bad Santa, with a Christmas setting where Billy Bob Thornton irreverently curses out the holidays with a drunken slur, or the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which puts the ugly side of visiting relatives during the holidays front and center. On the other hand, you have your horror and action movies that use Christmas as a juxtaposition of tone to emphasize the horrible and violent actions occurring onscreen – whether it be sorority girls being brutally murdered by toy unicorns in Black Christmas, or a barrage of bullets from a machine gun (ho ho ho) being fired 20 feet adjacent to the office Christmas tree in Die Hard. Michael Dougherty’s Krampus, however, reaches both heights in a more accessible and light-hearted fashion without losing the true essence of what makes both genres so enjoyable. Dougherty accomplishes the unique tone of Krampus by balancing comedy, drama, and horror and showing proper restraint on everything, while still retaining quality. Krampus never leans into the comedy too hard by being too vulgar or by pandering to the lowest common denominator with fart jokes or slapstick. It never leans too hard into the horror either, at least when it comes to explicit violence. You don’t see innocent people being pulled apart by gingerbread men, or people’s eyes being gouged out by icicles, or snowballs being used as frag grenades blowing people’s arms off into bloody bits, which are then stuffed into Santa’s bloody Christmas sack as blood drips down Santa’s beard, turning it from white into crimson red… Anyway, you don’t necessarily see any main human character die onscreen. The way the titular Krampus and his bag of evil toys operate is quite similar to how Willy Wonka and his Oompa Loompa’s function in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Most of the children (or family, in Krampus’ case) aren’t quite killed by all the demented contraptions of Willy Wonka, but are instead dragged off screen by some various kind of weird device, and death is only implied, but not necessarily confirmed. The comedy and horror instead rely on each character’s interactions with each other. The whole family fits into many of the caricatures associated with both the comedy and horror genres. The parents, Tom and Sarah, are too wrapped up in their own egos and daily stresses to even notice that their son, Max, just wants the family to come together and be happy again. The Southern gun-happy Uncle Howard, and the hesitant Aunt Linda, come to visit with their tomboy children, adding to the pure disconnect the family has with each other. And their misunderstandings of each other just add to the awkward humor the first act presents itself with anchored by Conchata Farrell’s belligerent and drunken, Aunt Dorothy. You’ve seen this dysfunctional family in countless holiday films: (usually in the Hallmark Channel films my mom watches on a daily basis this time of year), the family learns their lesson through communication, melodrama, and the “power of love and Christmas” or whatever. In Krampus, the family learns the hard way what happens when you’re douchebags to each other during Christmas time by getting their asses handed to them by an army of Christmas demons. When said army of Christmas demons, led by the titular Evil-Goat-Santa, arrive at the Engel family’s front door, they arrive hard and relentless. The tension is real, and the creatures while humorous in their design, with cutesy high-pitched voices, are a real threat to the family’s lives. While the characters are initially unlikeable, we watch them grow together through their horrible circumstances. The humor, sprinkled throughout the horror, is grounded, and makes the characters more relatable, and thus, we care about their fates and whether or not they get out of their Christmas nightmare scenario alive. The balance keeps you at the edge of your seat, but you’re laughing while leaning on the edge, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch. All these traits make Krampus a truly well rounded Christmas horror comedy, and I hope it becomes a staple tradition for many folks in the mood to celebrate the holidays with a little, but not too much, edge. Jeremy Kolodziejski Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95 #Articles #Newsletter #Krampus #December #HorrorComedy #Family #Holidays #JeremyKolodziejski

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