Brief Encounter (1945)
Written by Noël Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, and Ronald Neame
Directed by David Lean
David Lean was born into the Quaker faith in 1908 in the pastoral environs of Surrey, England. While in school, Lean was deemed too dreamy and not up to snuff with the level of academics he was expected to master. At age 18, he entered into an apprenticeship under his father’s accountancy firm. At age ten, Lean had been given a Brownie box camera, and this event was looked back at by the director as one of the most formative experiences in his life. The next formative moment came when at age 15, Lean’s father left his family. Lean would follow suit with his first wife and child. He would remarry five additional times, and friends claimed he slept with around 1,000 women in his lifetime.
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Saved by the Bell (Peacock)
Written by Tracy Wigfield, Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan, Amy-Jo Perry, Matt Warburton, Aaron Geary, Ben Steiner, Erin Fischer, Shantira Jackson, Beth Coyle, Dashiell Driscoll, and Marcos Gonzalez
Directed by Trent O’Donnell, Katie Locke O’Brien, Kabir Akhtar, Daniella Eisman, Matthew A. Cherry, Angela Tortu, and Claire Scanlon
There was a war on our television on Saturday morning in the 1990s. You see, Fox’s X-Men animated series aired at the same time as NBC’s Saved By The Bell. This led to a high level of tension between myself and my sister. The compromise was using the VCR to tape one while we watched the other. We were a single television household for most of my upbringing. Despite not wanting to watch the students’ antics at Bayside High School, I did and continued watching with my siblings when the made for television Hawaiian Style movie aired, The Colleges Years came and went, and the Las Vegas-centered wedding of Zack and Kelly wrapped things up. We don’t talk about The New Class in this household. When I saw Peacock was putting out a reboot of Saved by the Bell, I’ll admit I balked, just some more dumb nostalgia bait. But then I saw reviews coming in and the bona fides of its showrunners, and I decided to take a look. I am so delighted I did.
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You Can Count On Me (directed by Kenneth Lonergan)
From my review: Lonergan isn’t interested in judging his characters are giving them closure but putting them in situations and watching how they react. Sammy is given a new boss who is seemingly resentful of getting a position in a small town in the Catskills but also demands a level of professionalism that cuts through the humanity of his workers. Sammy is trying to be an orderly professional, but she’s also human. It would have been easy to write her as the stuck up/by the book sibling; however, Sammy just has things a little more together than Terry. She makes some pretty significant mistakes at her job, and the film doesn’t really wrap things up neatly. She doesn’t lose her job, but it’s clear that the bank’s environment is going to be different going forward.
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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Written by Caroline Thompson and Michael McDowell
Directed by Henry Selick
While the idea and production design were initially conceived by Tim Burton, the actual execution of The Nightmare Before Christmas was done by a bevy of other talented creators. However, the film is associated with Burton, and many mistake him as the director. We love and remember the picture for Danny Elfman’s music, Henry Selick’s direction, and the fantastic script by Thompson and McDowell. Thompson co-wrote Edward Scissorhands, and McDowell also penned the screenplay for Beetlejuice, so they brought all those elements to the table. The result is a gorgeous macabre take on the Christmas spirit that endures because it stands out from the crowd but reminds us of childhood favorites.
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The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage (2020)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
This recent DC Black Label mini-series provides the perfect opportunity for both a review and stealth superhero spotlight on a character who has intrigued me since I first saw them as a kid. The Question was a purchase by DC Comics when from their buyout of the flagging Charlton Comics in the early 1980s. He came with characters like Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Nightshade, and more.
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A Christmas Story (1983)
Written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark
Directed by Bob Clark
A Christmas Story is a great little holiday comedy about childhood but also one of the most disgustingly overhyped pieces of Americana in recent years. The TBS 24-hour marathon of the film definitely didn’t help things and has honestly led to the oversaturation of the picture. It’s a look back at the Depression Era Midwest and dramatizes Jean Shepherd’s memories of his childhood. The film is done in a series of vignettes that make it easy to consume by casual viewers or kids whose attention spans might wan after too long. But it definitely doesn’t deserve as much licensed merchandise or a Broadway musical based on the picture.
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You Can Count On Me (2000)
Written & Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
A brief few moments of tragedy can ripple through people’s lives seemingly forever. This is what has happened to a pair of adult siblings from upstate New York who have drifted apart over the year. Now they find it nearly impossible to reconnect, and their personal lives are a series of missteps and errors. Starting out as a playwright, Kenneth Lonergan came to films after a few successful stage productions. His directorial debut is a melancholy picture, a slice of life that doesn’t deliver the denouement we might expect but just presents a moment from these characters’ lives where they make some decisions, and we see how they live with the consequences.
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Animal Man existed in the DC Universe for twenty-three years before he became a character of considerable note at the hands of writer Grant Morrison. This post-Crisis transmutation created a platform to do a metaphysical examination of what it is like to be a fictional character observed by a nonfiction world. It highlighted the struggles of a working-class superhero with a family. Issues surrounding the environment and animal rights were brought up and discussed at length. Ultimately, Animal Man became a character who still resonates through the DCU today, but he certainly didn’t start that way.
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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Written by John Hughes
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
This might be my favorite Christmas movie of all time, but it might not. I have watched Christmas Vacation probably over two dozen times, and while I was a child and teenager, I loved the film, my views have become more complicated as an adult. I still think it is hilariously funny, a perfect ending to John Hughes’s tenure on the series. They tried to keep squeezing gold out of the series in later films, which were embarrassingly terrible. I’ve noticed in recent viewings that Christmas Vacation is a total mess, not sure if it wants to be sentimental or cynical about the holiday.
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