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Doctor Group Objects to Smoking in Movies for Kids

posted by Nell Minow

USA Today has a story about smoking in movies: A new study by the American Medical Association Alliance, the volunteer branch of the AMA, finds that over the past six years more than half of the movies geared toward children […]

Hollywood Veterans

posted by Nell Minow

A salute to three of Hollywood’s distinguished vets: 1. James Doohan of Star Trek landed in Normandy with the U.S. Army on D-Day. 2. George C. Scott of Patton was a decorated U.S. Marine. 3. James Stewart of “Strategic Air […]

(P)G is for Box Office Gold

posted by Nell Minow

Madagascar 2 (PG) made more than $63 million in its opening weekend. Just to put it in perspective, number 2 was the R-rated Role Models, at $19 million, which under normal circumstances would have been enough to make it number […]

Dana Stevens on the Melancholy Beauty of the Charlie Brown Specials

posted by Nell Minow

Slate’s Dana Stevens has a lovely essay on “Why I love the melancholy Peanuts holiday specials,” in honor of a new holiday collection dvd set. Those specials–at least the big three: the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas shows that were recently […]

Teenagers, Sex, Religion, and Media

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Post reports on the first study to link teen pregnancies to sexual content on television. The study is being published today in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The authors found a “strong association” between teen […]

The MPAA rating system turns 40

posted by Nell Minow

Defamer revisits the first 40 years of MPAA ratings. In the first days of film there were no ratings or limits. After outcries over the spicy content of some of the early talkies, Hollywood adopted the Hays Code in 1930. […]

The FCC, the Supreme Court, and the F- and S-Words

posted by Nell Minow

As we go to the polls today, honoring our Constitution’s fundamental principles of representative democracy, another key element of Constitutional system of checks and balances is also at work. And it may include consideration of yet another key founding principle […]

Is Hollywood Taking the Oscars Back from the Indies?

posted by Nell Minow

For the past few years, independent films have out-performed Hollywood studio productions when it comes to awards like the Oscars so consistently that the studios made very little effort to campaign on behalf of big-budget films. But the New York […]

Economic Crisis and the Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Hundreds of news articles are referring to our current economic crisis as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Movies were just coming of age in that decade. The first talkie was “The Jazz Singer” in 1927 and […]

Black Stars and Box Office

posted by Nell Minow

Two thoughtful and provocative articles bookend one of most challenging questions in American culture — the role of race at the collision point of art and commerce. In The Washington Post, Neely Tucker writes about Stars on the Field but […]

Alan Klavan’s ‘Liberal Myths’ in and About Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Writer Alan Klavan calls Hollywood movies liberal propaganda in a provocative opinion piece in the Washington Post. For the past 30 years or so, Hollywood storytelling has been guided by a liberal mythos in which, for example, blacklisting communist screenwriters […]

Thoughts on ‘W’ as Movie, History, and Politics

posted by Nell Minow

Movie review from Dana Stevens of Slate: Neither satire nor biopic, the film is a kind of secular pageant, enacting with dogged literality the well-known stations of the cross of Bush’s life: the 40th-birthday hangover-turned-religious-conversion! The near-asphyxiation by pretzel! Mission […]

The Most (Unexpectedly) Spiritual Film of the Week

posted by Nell Minow

This week’s releases include some very spiritual themes. W. shows us the 43rd President’s decision to let his life be guided by God, his lessons from a spiritual advisor, and his participation in Bible study. The Secret Life of Bees […]

Creationism vs. Atheism at the Box Office

posted by Nell Minow

As the pro-intelligent design film Expelled comes out in DVD this week, the ads crow that it is the top-grossing documentary of the year. But its record has been eclipsed by the anti-religion film Religulous after only two weeks in […]

When Television Changed Politics: Stevenson/Eisenhower

posted by Nell Minow

NPR has a great series about political firsts, including the first woman candidate for President (Victoria Woodhull, who ran in 1872, 48 years before women got the vote) and the impact of television on political campaigns in 1952, when Adlai […]

Smoking in Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Roger Ebert hates smoking — except in movies. And he really objects to the kind of revisionism that has produced one of Bette Davis’ iconic images from “All About Eve” for a new postage stamp but left out her ever-present […]

Studios’ Second Thoughts on Critics

posted by Nell Minow

According to Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood has figured out that critics are important in helping audiences find good movies that are not pre-sold through familiar characters or special effects. It cites an Advertising Age article that concludes the studios are starting […]

Anti-Islam DVD Circulated By Anonymous Group in Battleground States

posted by Nell Minow

I am grateful to Beliefnet blogger Aziz Poonawalla for bringing to my attention the 28 million free DVDs that were delivered with the Sunday newspaper throughout battleground states last month. The movie is called Obsession. According to Poonawalla, it is […]

Blind Activists Protest “Blindness”

posted by Nell Minow

“Blindness” is the story of unnamed characters in an unnamed community who all suddenly lose their sight with just one exception, a doctor’s wife played by Julianne Moore. The newly blind citizens, along with Moore’s character, who pretends to be […]

Hollywood’s Inaccurate Portrayal of Religious Practice

posted by Nell Minow

E! Online has a column about Hollywood’s inaccurate portrayal of religious practice. A reader wrote in to complain about the treatment of Mr. Eko, who pretends to be a priest in “Lost.” According to E!, Tod Tamberg, communications director of […]

Televised Presidential Debates

posted by Nell Minow

There’s an op-ed in today’s Chicago Tribune is about the value of televised debates. It was written by my dad, Newton Minow, and his frequent co-author, Northwestern professor Craig LaMay. This week is the anniversary of the very first Presidential […]

Should We Rate Movies for Marketing?

posted by Nell Minow

Alissa Quart’s column in Slate’s Big Money argues that in addition to rating movies and television for language, violence, sex, smoking, and substance abuse, we should rate them for product placement. She notes that for $300,000 you can have your […]

Are Some Words Forbidden No Matter What?

posted by Nell Minow

Should some words be banned entirely? In a debate reminiscent of the battles over The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a coalition of disability rights groups called for a boycott of Tropic Thunder over the use of the term “retard.” The […]

The ‘Bechdel Rule’

posted by Nell Minow

Neda Ulaby’s column on NPR starts with a rule established by Alison Bechdel, author of one of my favorite books, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In Bechdel’s comic strip, a character said she’d only go to see a movie if […]

Why all the Vampires?

posted by Nell Minow

Vampires are really big this year. Breaking Dawn, the fourth volume in Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series was the most eagerly anticipated book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And one of the most popular events at Comic-Con was the […]

Hot Weekend — Cold Opens

posted by Nell Minow

When a studio is fairly certain it will not get a single good review it simply refuses to let the critics get a look before the release date. That’s called a “cold open.” Usually, movies that open cold are based […]

While We’re On the Subject of Disabilities

posted by Nell Minow

The disability advocates who are picketing “Tropic Thunder” should take a look at “The House Bunny.” It is a much more worthwhile target for their complaints. In that movie, the title character becomes the house mother for a sorority of […]

August MVPs: Steve Coogan and Danny McBride

posted by Nell Minow

This month’s Most Valuable Cinematic Player award has to be shared by Steve Coogan and Danny McBride, who each deliver not one but two different magnificently hilarious performances in two August releases. Steve Coogan, is often underrated as an actor […]

Sisterhoods and Bromances: Where Are the Love Stories?

posted by Nell Minow

We have a lot of tender love stories in movies this year but they have mostly been about friendships. I can’t remember a time when there have been so few movies about falling in romantic love. What used to be […]

Who Should Be Offended by ‘Tropic Thunder?’

posted by Nell Minow

A coalition of disability group has called for a boycott of the R-rated satire Tropic Thunder. They are asking people not to see the movie because they say it demeans, insults, and harms individuals with intellectual disabilities by using the […]

Remembering the Hays Code — Movie Censorship from 1930-1968

posted by Nell Minow

NPR’s Bob Mondello has an excellent essay on the Hays Code, which governed Hollywood films from 1930-1968, when it was replaced by the MPAA rating system. A reaction to some provocative films in the days of the early talkies, the […]

The ‘Traitor’ Commercial Gives Too Much Away

posted by Nell Minow

It infuriates me when trailers and ads give away too much of the movie. This often happens when all the best jokes or special effects are strung together to get you to buy a ticket but once in a while […]

Parents Television Council Report on Sex on TV

posted by Nell Minow

The Parents Television Council released a new report on the way sex and marriage are portrayed on prime time television this afternoon. Today’s prime-time television programming is not merely indifferent to the institution of marriage and the stabilizing role it […]

Ebert’s Farewell to The Balcony

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to my friend Bob Elisberg for directing me to Ebert’s farewell to the 33-year movie review television show he shared with Gene Siskel and then Richard Roeper. That show, “just two guys talking about the movies,” made them into […]

Mistakes!

posted by Nell Minow

I think one reason I became a critic is that I am fascinated by mistakes. I don’t mind seeing bad movies (most of the time) because I like to think about what it is that makes them so bad. And […]

Quotes of the Week: Dark Knight and Mamma Mia

posted by Nell Minow

The Dark Knight has inspired some very thoughtful reviews. Anonymous DC critic “J.J.” wrote that the film moved him to tears: Perhaps it’s because the film has characters I grew to care about, scenes that soaked my heart in adrenaline […]

Report on Gender and Movie Criticism

posted by Nell Minow

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Director of the Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film at San Diego State University, has released a new report on the representation of women among film critics. I live in the Washington […]

FCC Commissioner insists on Public Interest in Satellite Radio Merger

posted by Nell Minow

FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, who will be casting the deciding vote in the proposed merger of satellite radio stations Sirius and XM, has been opposed to the merger in the past, but has agreed to vote in favor with […]

How Would Wall?E Vote?

posted by Nell Minow

The chattering classes are already going after that sweet little robot Wall?E. Some on the right accused the film of being leftist propaganda because of its environmental message. As the New York Times points out: Blogland moves at the speed […]

Do Movie Critics Matter?

posted by Nell Minow

In 2006, Time asked whether movie critics still mattered. Since then, more than 30 major national critics have retired or been laid off and there has been a lot of commentary about the pros and cons of the democratization of […]

My Visit to Green Gables and Prince Edward Island

posted by Nell Minow

As promised, here are two of my pictures from our visit to the home that inspired L.M. Montgomery to write Anne of Green Gables just 100 years ago. Ms. Montgomery never lived here but it belonged to a relative and […]

Family of the Week: Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jaden, and Willow

posted by Nell Minow

Will Smith likes to joke that he owns the 4th of July, and it is true that he starred in two of the hugest hits to open on the 4th, “Men in Black” and “Independence Day.” He’s hoping to do […]

FCC Commissioner Adelstein on Children and Media

posted by Nell Minow

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein gave an important speech last week to the Media Institute titled Stuck in the Mud: Time to Move an Agenda to Protect America’s Children. [M]any parents are feeling inundated by an array of media that are […]

Man of the Week: JT

posted by Nell Minow

This week we have something that does not happen very often — two huge movies in the same genre opening on the same day: “Get Smart” with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway and “The Love Guru” with Mike Myers. One […]

Fox News and the term ‘Baby Mama’

posted by Nell Minow

I have always disliked the terms “Baby Mama” and “Baby Daddy.” Originally they were used only to describe unmarried parents and the implication was that their connection through the baby or children was all that remained of their relationship. The […]

Sleep Disturbance and Media — a Kaiser Report

posted by Nell Minow

“American children get too little sleep, with major adverse implications for their cognitive ability, judgment, behavior and physical health,” according to new study from the Kaiser foundation. There are many factors, but one of them is media. Children and adults […]

Is “The Love Guru” Bigoted?

posted by Nell Minow

Mike Myers’ upcoming movie, “The Love Guru” has sparked protests from Hindu groups even before its scheduled opening on June 20. Hindus have urged Viacom and its brand Paramount Pictures to post a study-guide about Hinduism and guru tradition on […]

Get Ready for Kidzilla

posted by Nell Minow

Maybe it’s just too much exposure to commercials for Bridezilla, a sort of WWE with smackdowns between maniacal brides and their wedding planners, families, and bridesmaids, but I was horrified to read a press release today from MyKidsRegistry.com, a new […]

Documentary Therapy: Families Use Cameras to Create Conversations (and Confrontations)

posted by Nell Minow

Last week I saw a documentary called Bigger Stronger Faster* (The Side Effects of Being an American). The film, produced by some of the people behind Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, ties the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing […]

Can Hatred be Funny?

posted by Nell Minow

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times has an article in today’s paper about the forthcoming Adam Sandler movie, “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” about “an Israeli assassin who flees to the United States to become a hairdresser.” Trailers for […]

Is Indy too old? (and what about Marian?)

posted by Nell Minow

My friend and fellow movie critic Christian Toto has a terrific article in Moviemaker about aging actors like Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” and “Rambo”), Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”), and Harrison Ford (“Indiana Jones”) keeping their franchise series going over the decades. […]

Welcome to The Responsibility Project

posted by Nell Minow

I am honored to welcome as a sponsor of this site The Responsibility Project from Liberty Mutual. I agree with them that “the more people think and talk about responsibility, the more the world becomes a better place” and I […]

Movie trailers — too many, too much information, or the best part of the show?

posted by Nell Minow

In honor of Mother’s Day, my wonderful husband took me to…a movie (yes, my request). It was preceded by six trailers. That was fine with me — I love to see what’s coming. But many people don’t like them. They […]

Pangea Day — sharing stories worldwide

posted by Nell Minow

The fist Pangea Day was every bit as heart-warming, inspiring, and thrilling as I had hoped. I was privileged to participate at the Epicenter Church, a new Christian Faith Community located in Rosslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from […]

The Return of the Bob!

posted by Nell Minow

Silent star Louise Brooks had an iconic bob haircut that gave her image a power and vitality that almost a century later still seems both classic and contemporary. Two movies opening this month give us heroines with hairstyles that hark […]

Burger King promotes inappropriate film

posted by Nell Minow

It infuriates me when fast food companies promote PG-13 films by giving away tie-in toys to children. Burger King is now giving away toys for children as young as three to promote “Iron Man” a movie with “intense sequences of […]

Talking to kids about Miley Cyrus

posted by Nell Minow

Fifteen-year-olds make some poor choices. But while they may feel like the whole world is watching, usually it is just family and friends. Miley Cyrus is not just a fifteen-year-old. She is not even just a superstar, though she did […]

Expelled: Intelligence Welcome (part 2)

posted by Nell Minow

Ben Stein has accomplished his goal — he has people talking about how we decide what will be taught and studied as science. If he has accomplished the feat of getting people thinking and listening as well, that will be […]

Expelled: Intelligence Welcome (part 1)

posted by Nell Minow

I have very much enjoyed reading all of the comments (more than 70!) on my review of the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. I am going to comment on the comments and the controversy over the movie shortly, […]

School children force-fed avertising on the bus

posted by Nell Minow

The New York Times reports that a special radio channel has been installed in school buses. It plays music that kids like, and it plays commercials. The content is provided at no cost to the school district by RadioOne, which […]

The Ultimate Relationship Test: Renting a DVD

posted by Nell Minow

Traveling together. Buying a house. Handling finances. Dealing with in-laws. Raising children. Sex. These are often listed as the primary argument topics for couples — and the arguments most revelatory of underlying relationship issues and problems. It’s time to add […]

Gender — and Genre — bending in “CJ7″

posted by Nell Minow

“CJ7″ is the story of a little boy named Dicky who struggles with school bullies, extreme poverty, tough homework, a girl who likes him, a different girl that he likes, problems communicating with his father (writer-director Stephen Chow), and an […]

Miss Bimbo: As Bad as it Sounds and Then Some

posted by Nell Minow

“Miss Bimbo” is an online site popular with little girls in England, France, and Japan that bills itself as the “first virtual fashion game.” It encourages them to “Become the most famous and beautiful bimbo in the world.” They can […]

Do women critics review differently?

posted by Nell Minow

Jennifer Merin of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists invited me to respond to a blog post from Gary Susman of Entertainment Weekly on whether we need more female critics.

Baby Einstein has to admit their DVDs do not educate

posted by Nell Minow

Three cheers for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. In a press release issued today, CCFC announced that “As a result of CCFC’s Federal Trade Commission complaint, Baby Einstein has completely redesigned its website and is no longer making educational […]

Congratulations to “The Counterfeiters”

posted by Nell Minow

It was great to see “The Counterfeiters” win the foreign language Oscar last night. writer-director Stefan Ruzowitsky and lead actor Karl Markovics told me how thrilled they were to be nominated, and how much they were looking forward to attending. […]

Should Miley Buckle Up?

posted by Nell Minow

A blog post by Consumer Reports points out that in her record-breaking 3D concert film, Miley Cyrus and her dad ride in the back seat of a Range Rover on the way to rehearsal — without their seatbelts. Cyrus senior […]

Meeting with the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

posted by Nell Minow

Yesterday I attended a meeting with Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to talk about media and family issues. It was arranged by the Parents Television Council, which has been very active on issues of non-family-friendly content and […]

What does “Not Screened for Critics” mean?

posted by Nell Minow

I hear there is some sort of sporting event going on this weekend. So it makes sense that studios decided it would not be a good time to release big-budget movies with hopes of big box office. If Sunday will […]

Jeneé Osterheldt Recommends the Classics

posted by Nell Minow

The Kansas City Star’s Jeneé Osterheldt has a great column with the solution for television fans suffering from writers’ strike doldrums: go to Turner Classic Movies and enjoy the classics. When Martin Scorsese met with the Museum of the Moving […]

A Fresh Tomato for RT’s New Look

posted by Nell Minow

Yes, most critics love to read what our colleagues think about movies. And so I spend time just about every day on the wonderful Rotten Tomatoes website, the best place to read what everyone has to say, from Roger Ebert […]

Flanagan’s Infuriating Mis-Read of “Juno”

posted by Nell Minow

Caitlan Flanagan’s elegant prose and exceptional grasp of vital detail make it easy to miss the single most important fact about what she writes — her absence of any insight about anything outside her own experience and her own head. […]

Why (and how) do we like to be scared? What do you think is scary?

posted by Nell Minow

Before there were scary movies, there were scary plays. Before there were scary plays, there were scary stories. Scary has been very popular for a very long time. The top twenty box office champs are all scary, from Titanic to […]

Will Smith — the Hitler flap

posted by Nell Minow

It is a shame that Will Smith’s reasonable comments have been taken out of context and he has been forced to apologize. Here is what he said: Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing […]

Webkinz sneaks in advertising for kids

posted by Nell Minow

Webkinz is the most popular online site for children. If they buy a Webkinz toy, they can log onto the site where a virtual version of the toy will appear. Any real-life accessory they buy will show up on the […]

Baby Einstein = Baby Couch Potato

posted by Nell Minow

The fastest-growing “audience” for media has been babies under age two. Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against them and all academic evidence has shown that it takes babies two to three times as long to learn something […]

While the writers are on strike

posted by Nell Minow

John F. Kennedy once advised, “Never pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel.” He meant that you cannot win an argument with people who publish newspapers and have all the ink, paper, and readers to make […]

God Still Loves Us/I Am Legend

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks so much to LoveBean2 for pointing me to this fascinating viral marketing intiative for I Am Legend. They’ve sponsored a contest to document the “God Still Loves Us” message. The intended message is “go see ‘I am Legend,’” but […]

Catholic Bishops rescind “Golden Compass” review

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to Eric Bateman for this update: The Catholic News Service reports that the Conference of Catholic Bishops has withdrawn its review of “The Golden Compass.” There are news reports that the US Bishops have been asked to fire the […]

Washington Area Film Critics pick Coen Brothers movie

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) today announced its selection of the gritty thriller No Country for Old Men as Best Film of 2007. In total, the Miramax/Paramount Vantage film won four awards including Best Director for Joel […]

More thoughts on “The Golden Compass”

posted by Nell Minow

Very worthwhile readings on “The Golden Compass” and the controversy: In the LA Times, Laura Miller talks about the emailed claims that author Philip Pullman is anti-relgion. Snopes lists this particular rumor as “true,” presumably because the e-mails use a […]

Welcome from The Movie Mom

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I hope you will check in often and I would be very happy to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions — even your corrections. I’ll be reviewing movies and DVDs every week and […]

When Movies Collide

posted by Nell Minow

It often happens that movies seem to overlap or collide with each other. All of a sudden, there are two or three movies at the same time about earthquakes, or farm foreclosures, or asteroids hitting the earth, or CGI films […]

Not-so Enchanted

posted by Nell Minow

One of the best movie critics around is Slate’s Dana Stevens, and this week she has an excellent column about the adorable “Enchanted,” pointing out that there is one very un-enchanting element to the movie. She enjoyed the movie and […]

What does “The Golden Compass” say about God and religion?

posted by Nell Minow

The Catholic League says that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass) “bash Christianity and promote atheism.” It has called on its members to boycott the film version of the first of the books. […]

Jim Judy’s Screenit.com

posted by Nell Minow

I was delighted to see my friend Jim Judy and his screenit.com website interviewed by my friend Arch Campbell on the ABC station in Washington, DC. (Be patient — there is a brief commercial before the interview clip.) Jim’s site […]

Books Into Movies

posted by Nell Minow

I’ve seen four movies based on books in the past week and all made me think about the perils of adapting novels to the screen. I once heard Peter Hedges speak about the difference between plays, novels, and movies. His […]

‘Sleuth’ vs. ‘Sleuth’ and Twin vs. Twin

posted by Nell Minow

This morning I saw the remake of “Sleuth.” Like the original, it stars Michael Caine, but this time he plays the role of the older man, a mystery writer whose visit from his wife’s young, handsome lover turns into a […]

Inappropriate Themes in ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Nancy Drew?’

posted by Nell Minow

Two movies for kids coming out this month devote a significant amount of story-telling time to plot twists involving secret out-of-wedlock children whose fathers were never told that they existed. One is the PG “Nancy Drew” and the other is […]

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