7 years later, and still at it.

28 07 2016

Holy cow. 7 years ago today, I started Marshall and the Movies. Then, I was 16 years old approaching my junior year in high school with trepidation. Today, I’m 23 and rounding the corner towards my first year in the “real world” … which is scary in its own way.

In many regards, the famous saying from Joan Didion, “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be,” rings accurate today. I don’t recognize the writer who often laid out reviews in the same blueprint as an academic essay. I don’t recognize the film enthusiast whose passion for the art barely extended past the 1970s. I don’t recognize many of the insecurities and the doubts of that person. (For good measure, I also don’t recognize some of that teenage presumptuousness.)

But after rewatching “Julie & Julia,” the film that launched me on this journey, I was also reminded that some things haven’t changed. As Amy Adams’ Julie Powell declares, “I can write a blog. I have thoughts!” I did (and am) because I had (and have). Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Though admittedly, I have let a lot of things slip – traffic, SEO, social cross-promotion, comments, reading the words of others, etc. – I cannot fully express my gratitude for those who continue to come back and read. Whether you know me personally or just found me floating in cyberspace, THANK YOU! Through your continued readership and encouragement, I can push my form on this blog and prepare to make a big impact in the freelance world.

In just the past year of expanding my writing beyond this site, it has been one heck of a ride. I have interviewed two Oscar-winners, the directors from two of my top 10 films of 2015, and three actors from my favorite movie of 2016 thus far. I have covered three film festivals, including the cream of the crop here in America: Sundance.

So … let’s fight the seven-year itch together! Here’s to bigger, better things here on the site and beyond.

REVIEW: Heart of a Dog

9 05 2016

Heart of a DogA mourning of a lost husband and pet. A celebration of their lives.

An elegy for the innocence and purity of pre-9/11 New York City. A lamentation for the rise of the surveillance state.

A visually eclectic documentary. A simply told personal tale.

These are some of the many contradictions that make up Laurie Anderson’s film “Heart of a Dog,” a film chock full of ideas in its 75 minute runtime yet somehow manages to never feel dense. The whole experience is rather ethereal, guided perhaps by Anderson’s deep conviction in Buddhist teachings. It’s hard to fault her logic when she seems so sure of the deeper psychic connections motivating each decision.

Occasionally, Anderson does seem to bite off more than she can chew in the film. She runs in circles around recurring themes while rarely exploring them deeply, though perhaps that is her point – sensation over intellect, natural consciousness over synthetic thought. “Heart of a Dog” is at its best when immensely personal, particularly when recounting the extraordinary life of her dog, Lolabelle. Anderson is no ordinary artist, so of course, she had no ordinary dog; her rat terrier went blind but picked up playing the piano in her final two years on earth.

Some of the extrapolations Anderson makes from Lolabelle get a little dicier, and the internal resolution of the conflicts by asserting the superiority of her beliefs leaves a bit of a sour taste. But in spite of its flaws and roughness, “Heart of a Dog” remains quite intriguing. At the very least, watching an artist so willing to throw out the rulebook with picture, sound, content and tone is always worthwhile. B2halfstars

Win passes to see “Sing Street” with me in Houston!

13 04 2016

Hey, Houston friends!

I’m a partner on an upcoming screening of The Weinstein Company’s new movie “Sing Street,” opening in Houston on April 29! The screening takes place at the River Oaks Theater on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:00 P.M. I’ll be seeing it then for the first time as well since I missed the film in Sundance.



REVIEW: Beyond the Lights

9 08 2015

Beyond the LightsBeyond the Lights” features one of the more interesting dialogues about the suffocating pressures of fame and the stifling sexualization of our culture.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Noni Jean, a digital-age pop star with all the qualities of a true songbird, gets fed up with both and threatens to throw it all away by jumping off a balcony.  Thankfully, Nate Parker’s officer Kaz is there to keep her from making the leap.

What follows in writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film is partially a demonstration of what happens to women who rebel against the implicit contract that they must become objects of sexual desire first and bearers of talent second.  (Shocker: people, men especially, HATE it.)  But to keep Noni from another complete relapse, she needs some source of comfort; she finds that in Kaz.

A romantic subplot is hardly objectionable, yet it seems odd when it ultimately becomes the main storyline in a film that otherwise concerns itself with female empowerment.  Prince-Blythewood directs the scenes between Noni and Kaz with all the subtlety of a Hallmark movie.  They are drawn-out, sappy, and far too numerous.

The discussion “Beyond the Lights” wants to start is worth having.  But whether you want to endure some of the standard-issue syrupy adoration to join in is a decision you have to make for yourself.  B-/ 2stars

5 Years a Blogger: How did it get so late so soon?

28 07 2014

So late so soonOnce upon a time, I sat in front of a computer screen for 30 minutes and typed out a post entitled “Marshall and the Movies – The Beginning.”  That was five years, 744 reviews, 568 random factoids, and 1,658 posts ago today.  I don’t think anywhere in my wildest dreams I could have ever imagined I would be sitting here, five years later, still cranking out posts on my blog.

When I started “Marshall and the Movies,” I could not attend an R-rated movie without parental supervision.  Now, I can legally buy and consume alcohol.  The writer who began this blog was a naive high schooler, and the one who is writing this post is a (perhaps slightly less naive) rising college senior.  At times, I still feel like the same person who started the site – but realize that I’m really not.

My life now scarcely resembles what it looked like July 28, 2009, but I’ve been grateful to have this site – and the movies – to fall back on through the various sea changes over the past five years.  I haven’t always been entirely consistent, I’ll admit.  I’m so thankful to everyone who kept coming back regardless, though!

Not to beat the “Boyhood” drum again, but Richard Linklater’s film really does have me hypersensitive about the seemingly imperceptible changes in ourselves that accumulate over time.  I look back at the way I reviewed a Woody Allen movie in 2009, and it looks absolutely nothing like the way I review it now in 2014.  But I can’t really even be embarrassed about the way I used to write because the site is such an incredible time capsule for my intellectual growth (not to mention all that’s happened in the world of cinema).

I’ve so enjoyed sharing these past five years of moviegoing with you, from the good to the bad.  The discussions and debates I’ve had over posts I’ve written, whether in the comments or in person, do hearten me so.  Clearly, I’m a firm believer in the importance of film on both a personal and cultural level, and I thank you for working with me towards achieving my “mission statement,” if you will:

“What I do hope to do is to inspire a deeper appreciation of movies, foster a desire to discuss movies, and connect with people through the glorious medium of film.”

Marshall and JulieI’m filled with nothing but gratitude for everyone’s support of this endeavor, particularly those who encouraged me from the beginning when the continued existence of “Marshall and the Movies” was nothing certain.  This site has led to so many great things in my life, and I hope it has led to something great in yours as well.  Maybe it was connecting you with a great movie, or maybe it was making you think a little more about a film.  But whatever it was, I’m so humbled and honored that you’ve let me be a part of your life in some small way.

So thanks for 5 interesting years, and here’s to … who knows how many more!  I can’t express my gratitude to you all enough.


Four years later…

28 07 2013

The last two years, my quasi-“State of the Union” speech on my birthday/anniversary has taken a self-loathing tone.  This year, however, things will be a little different.  Perhaps this lovely announcement from WordPress set the tone for the day:

4 years

Curiously enough, I would have forgotten the significance of July 28 had it not been for a calendar reminder on my iPhone yesterday.  Rather than see it as a day of shame signifying how far I’ve fallen from my days of daily posting with a consistent commenting community, I choose to see today as a day of accomplishment and pride.  I can’t say I ever thought I’d see this day.  I was rising junior in high school when I wrote my first post; I’m a rising junior in college as I write this one.

The time has flown by, and I’ve loved every minute that I’ve spent writing this blog.  Every time I pick up after a long hiatus, I’m reminded of how much joy I receive when I sit down and bang out something that could pass for insightful criticism or a valid recommendation.  Now, I seem to be back on a pretty regular schedule, and that will last until … well, until I’m not on a regular schedule.  And I’m OK with that.  Sometimes life has other plans, and I’m glad that there are still some people to read when I choose to start writing again.

But enough with reflection – time to talk about the future.  I figure this would be as good a time as ever to do that.  I’m going to make some goals, many lofty and some perhaps unrealistic, in the hopes that their codification in writing will drive me to accomplish them.

  1. Finish all my reviews from Cannes 2013 by August
  2. Clear my review backlog (which is probably close to a hundred unwritten reviews) by the end of 2013
  3. Finally start the “Auteur Hour,” a column I’ve been planning since summer 2012 to take a look at a director’s entire body of work
  4. Revive the “Classics Corner” column, perhaps to an even greater frequency than once a month
  5. Publish at least one feature/opinion every month – reviews are nice, but I can’t capture ALL my thoughts in them
  6. Provide more extensive Oscars/awards season coverage, perhaps even with a few “Oscar Moment” pieces on individual films vying for the industry’s top prize
  7. Finally finish “The Godfather” trilogy and see “Gone with the Wind”

I think I can achieve these things, but I’ll need some help and support from my readers!  So if you see me slacking or think I’m doing a great job (or a poor one), be vocal and let me know.  You’ve done a great job so far providing a feedback loop, and I’m sure you all will come through again.

So thanks once more for all you’ve done over the past 4 years.  That’s almost 20% of my life, which is a significant chunk.  It’s already become hard to imagine a past where I wasn’t blogging, and you make it even harder to see a future where I’m not blogging.

Until the next reel,

The Three-Year Itch

28 07 2012

I had to be reminded by a repeated event in my calendar today (which popped up in the Notifications center on my iPhone) that it was my blogoversary, blog birthday, whatever you want to call it.  Just shows you how shoddily I’ve been treating this blog.  I poured blood, sweat, and tears … no, really just time, caffeine, and sanity … into this thing, and it’s barely staying afloat.

After one year of blogging, I was ecstatic.  I was baking cakes, publishing four posts per day, and enjoying the heyday of my blogging career.

After two years, I labeled the blogoversary post “Anticlimax.”  Yeesh, that was prescient.  Here’s some of what I wrote:

“Well, I had almost entirely forgotten about my blogoversary.  Unlike last year, when I celebrated it with fanfare and cake baking, this year the day just kind of came and went.  Unspectacular, uncelebrated, really just like any other day.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself – er, wait, I did write that myself.

I put some thought into what this day means to me, given that it is a milestone of sorts.  Basically, what my reflections led me to as a realization of my own laziness.  I’ve grown complacent.  Content to simply consume movies, not ruminate and discuss them.  Selfishness.  Gluttony.  Self-indulgence.

When I started this blog way back in 2009, I wrote this:

“What the heck am I thinking?!?  I am a full-time student with hours upon hours of homework each night.  And on top of that, I have a season of athletics, two musicals, one play, two select arts companies, volunteer work, religious commitments, college searching, standardized testing preparation – and trying to retain some vestige of a life.  How on earth am I going to have time to maintain a blog?”

I look back on that time in my life through the lens of retrospective and can easily call that the most hectic, stressful period of my life.  And yet I managed to write this blog at full capacity then.  Now the burden of college admissions has been lifted off my shoulders and the engine is rolling smoothly towards the professional world … and it feels like a heavy burden to write a movie review?!  Come on, Marshall.

So starting today, I recommit myself to this blog.  To write reviews, to analyze, to discuss, to be a part of a community of cinematic connoisseurs.  If I could do it my junior year of high school, I know I can do it now.  So now, after this post, I rest.  Tomorrow, I start with my review of “The Dark Knight Rises.”  And I begin to battle the three-year itch.

I will fight.  And with your help, I can win.  Thanks for reading this piece … glad to know you still exist, reader.