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2014’s Best Films (May Already Have Come)

The following was originally published in Word and Film.

Let’s be honest: In the dog days of summer, most of us crave popcorn movies that won’t tax our wilted brains. Gross-out comedies and smash-’em-up action pictures are the order of the day, and really, there’s no shame in that. Some of them, like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, are pretty great. (Not so much Tammy or Transformers: Age of Extinction.) Some of them, like Snowpiercer, are even pretty smart.

But for those craving complicated, grown-up cinematic fare – the sort we can mull over for an afternoon while the rest of the world melts away – 2014 has already produced its fair share of memorable films. And it’s worth catching up on them before the autumn’s rush of “Oscar-consideration” movies begins. Distributors tend to release their most artistically adventurous films (that is, the ones likely to alienate the conservative Academy) earlier in the year.

Here are the five best movies of 2014 so far. Continue Reading →

My Day With the (Fault in Our) Stars

The following is a report I originally published in Word and Film.

Ordinarily I avoid any occasion at which people are likely to shriek but I caught myself requesting – nay, begging – to attend a recent The Fault in Our Stars event. This, despite the fact that it promised to be a veritable shriekfest. Like so many others, I am absolutely in love with the book from which it’s adapted.

The good news: The movie does justice to the book. Without disclosing any spoilers, it’s safe to say Shailene Woodley is an ideal Hazel and Ansel Elgort an ideal Gus. Also on point: Nat Wolff as Isaac, Gus’s best friend, and Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents. Along with director Josh Boone and author Green, they were all in attendance for a post-screening Q&A as well as a press conference the next day. Here are six things to know about this event. Continue Reading →

Eat Drink Book Movie

If there’s one thing people like as much as food, it’s the culture of food: dining and cooking blogs, restaurant scenes, cookbooks for every sense and sensibility, chef idolatry, food TV, and, of course, food movies. Even bad movies about food are still good, thanks to their subjects, and cinema’s most sensual moments tend to feature meals rather than sex—think Eat Drink Man Woman, Babette’s Feast, and Tom Jones. (If you’ve never seen the latter, be forewarned: You’ll never look at a roasted chicken the same way again.)

While there’s never been a shortage of movies to make us hungry, though, there’s a surprising dearth of films based on food memoirs. Sure, there’s Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron’s film based on memoirs by Julia Child and Julie Powell; Toast, based on British chef Nigel Slater’s memoir; and reportedly an upcoming film based on New York City chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s Bones, Blood & Butter (which may star Lady Goop herself, Gwyneth Paltrow). But since all of Hollywood loves a literary adaptation, and since few literary genres blend such va-va-voom carnality with serious brass tacks, I’d argue there should be many more. For Word and Film, I list the food writers whose books would provide an excellent start.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy