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Movie Mom

Understanding Media and Pop Culture Archives

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More on the Eww-ishness of Zach and Cody

posted by Nell Minow

Slate TV critic Troy Patterson echoes the concerns about the smarmy qualities of the Disney series “The Suite Life on Deck” that Dan Savage discussed in the essay I linked to in June. “On Deck” is the follow-up series that […]

Thoughts on ‘Precious’

posted by Nell Minow

“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” has been warmly embraced by audiences and critics since it first appeared in festivals. Two of the biggest media powerhouses in the world, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, signed on as producers […]

Wait, Women Go to Movies?

posted by Nell Minow

MaryAnn Johanson has a great piece in her series on the website of the Association of Women Film Journalists in response to the Hollywood conventional wisdom that movies need to be directed at boys and men to make money. Noting […]

Another Word Goes Mainstream?

posted by Nell Minow

In my concern for the continuing coarsening of language, I last wrote about whether the term “pimp” had become acceptable for children after it was used in the PG film “G-Force.” The New York Times writes about another word that […]

‘Idols’ Around the World

posted by Nell Minow

Cynthia Schneider, former US Ambassador to the Netherlands and specialist in international culture, tells the TED audience about the impact of “Idol”-style television programs around the world. We know how winning can transform the lives of the performers. She helps […]

‘Couples Retreat’ Poster Omits Black Stars

posted by Nell Minow

I thought there was nothing that the awful movie “Couples Retreat” could do to be more offensive. I was wrong. According to the Huffington Post, the blockbuster comedy has eliminated one of its four couples in its non-US posters. It […]

What Happened to Ken?

posted by Nell Minow

And while we’re on the subject of makeovers, what is happening to Ken? Barbie’s beau has had to endure some humiliating looks since he arrived on the scene in 1961. Of course his function is primarily as arm candy for […]

‘Paranormal Activity’s’ Real Curves

posted by Nell Minow

My friend Christian Toto makes an important point in his post about the “reality” of the record-breaking thriller, “Paranormal Activity.” The movie feels real not just because the actors use their real names and the footage all appears to be […]

Pixar Discovers Girls

posted by Nell Minow

Pixar is the most successful movie studio in history, with every one of its 10 films a critical and box office success. But not one of those ten films has featured a female lead. There have been memorable girls and […]

Mickey Makeover

posted by Nell Minow

Mickey Mouse is my favorite animated character. Part of the reason is historic — he starred in the first movie to feature a synchronized soundtrack, “Steamboat Willie.” And he was the first character and later the emblem for what would […]

Disney Admits that Baby Einstein Does Not Help Babies

posted by Nell Minow

Disney, which had to drop the word “educational” from its marketing of Baby Einstein DVDs following complaints from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), has now had to back down further and offer a refund. The New York Times […]

No Heene Family Wife Swap

posted by Nell Minow

The savagely funny Washington Post television columnist Lisa de Moraes takes on the Heene family’s lust for reality television fame. The Heenes and the family behind the balloon boy hoax and subsequent media blitz. Slate’s Culture Gabfest noted that it […]

The Worst Surprise Endings in Movie History

posted by Nell Minow

Huffington Post has got a list of the nine worst surprise endings in movie history (well, in the past few years). I was pleased to see three of my Gothika Rule picks on the list, “Perfect Stranger,” “23,” and “The […]

Paranormal Activity: Marketing or Art?

posted by Nell Minow

Jen Chaney has an astute article in the Washington Post about the latest movie phenomenon, “Paranormal Activity.” Like The Blair Witch Project, it is more concept than movie, taking advantage of what most would consider a disadvantage: no money. The […]

More (and Less) on ‘The Invention of Lying’

posted by Nell Minow

In Washington DC’s City Paper, Tricia Olszewski cites my fellow-Beliefnet blogger Michele McGinty (who has not seen the film) and me about the surprisingly lukewarm reaction to the anti-religious elements engendered by the Ricky Gervais film “The Invention of Lying.” […]

Wait, Archie Will Marry Betty?

posted by Nell Minow

Now that Archie has not just proposed to Veronica (issue 600), but actually married her, gone on a honeymoon, and is going to be a father (issue 601), the comic is hitting rewind and sending Archie down the literal road […]

Two Great Posts on Idol Chatter

posted by Nell Minow

I am honored to share coverage of popular culture with the thoughtful posters over at Idol Chatter. Two posts I have especially liked this week are Ellen Leventry’s commentary on the new homeless American Girl doll and the Mont Blanc […]

Three Movies Examine Our Struggle to Understand God

posted by Nell Minow

Three new and very different movies have one thing in common — they all ask their characters and their audiences to think about the nature of God and faith. This week we have a perky romantic comedy with Ricky Gervais […]

Talking to Kids About Courtesy

posted by Nell Minow

We seem to be in the midst of an epidemic of rude behavior, with three high-profile recent examples in three different fields of endeavor — though, interestingly, all involving people with last names starting with “W.” At the State of […]

What is the Phrase Heard on Every Single Reality Show?

posted by Nell Minow

I’m not here to make friends! Be sure to take a look at this hilarious compilation of “I’m not here to make friends” moments from reality shows compiled by Rich Juzwiak of VH1. Here’s a sample: His terrific and very […]

MPAA Trailer Rule Update

posted by Nell Minow

Top entertainment reporter/commentator for the LA Times Patrick Goldstein wrote a terrific blog post about my story on the MPAA’s secret change to the rules governing the content of trailers, calling the consequences of this change “a whole new level […]

MPAA Makes Unannounced Change to Trailer Content

posted by Nell Minow

As I describe in an exclusive story today’s Chicago Sun-Times, The Motion Picture Association of America’s Ratings Board made an unannounced change in April of this year that eliminated almost all restrictions on the content of movie trailers, the brief […]

Movie References in ‘Inglourious Basterds’

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to Cinematical for referring me to Scarecrow Video’s exhaustive list of all the movie references in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” A nice reminder of why “independent, brick & mortar video stores that employee real people” are not “outmoded and […]

Summer 2009

posted by Nell Minow

The end of August is the worst time of year for movies. This makes no sense to me. I would think that people would want to see some good movies before the end of vacation. But it has been true […]

Betty Asks Amy

posted by Nell Minow

The wise and witty Amy Dickenson of “Ask Amy” gets a letter from a blonde named Betty who is distraught that her boyfriend of 67 years is going to marry her rival, Veronica! Amy has some good advice: I want […]

Archie Proposes to…Veronica!

posted by Nell Minow

It has been one of popular culture’s most enduring conundrums: Betty or Veronica? Until now. Archie Andrews, after seven decades as a teenager, has all of a sudden grown up. Archie and his friends have made only the smallest concessions […]

‘District 9′ — About Racism or Racist?

posted by Nell Minow

“District 9″ is one of the best-reviewed films of the 2009. Entertainment Weekly put it on the cover and called it the must-see movie of the summer. Most critics described it as a thinking person’s action movie because it presents […]

NPR’s Five Ways Movie Governments Should Respond to Aliens

posted by Nell Minow

NPR has a very funny list of suggestions for movie governments who must respond to an alien invasion with examples from classics like “Independence Day,” “Cocoon,” “E.T.,” and the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” All of the ideas are […]

‘Reality’ Dating: In the Dark and Overweight

posted by Nell Minow

I’m not a fan of reality shows about dating because they seem too artificial and everyone on them seems so self-obsessed (granted, inevitable given their constantly being asked how they feel). But two new variations are worth a mention. Dating […]

Stop Marketing of PG-13 Movies to Young Children

posted by Nell Minow

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is circulating a petition to protest the marketing of GI Joe action figures promoting the new PG-13 movie “GI Joe.” Yes, GI Joe was a toy for decades before the movie. But these action […]

Do Reality Shows Abuse Children?

posted by Nell Minow

The Wrap has a provocative column by Domnic Patten about the impact of reality television programs on the children who participate in them. One problem is a loophole in the law. If children are working as actors on a film […]

Tribute: Walter Cronkite

posted by Nell Minow

As well as I remember those misty images of Neil Armstrong coming out of the lunar module to put the first footstep on the moon, I remember the look on Walter Cronkite’s face as he reported it. Cronkite died today […]

Slate’s Proposed Future Toy-Inspired Blockbusters

posted by Nell Minow

Slate’s movie critic, Dana Stevens, invited readers to propose “Transformers”-like summer blockbusters inspired by action figures and other toys. The result was hilarious. My favorites were “Night of the Cabbage Patch Kids–This Time, Your Vegetables Will Finish You” and “Lego […]

Michael Jackson: How Will He Be Remembered?

posted by Nell Minow

Michael Jackson was a complex and tragic figure. It seems that his memory is being splintered into a thousand shards. Always a showman and a shrewd manager of his brand, Jackson reputedly insisted that he be referred to on MTV […]

YouTube Reporters Center

posted by Nell Minow

YouTube has a fascinating new section with top reporters explaining how they get, organize, verify, and tell their stories. Katie Couric explains how to conduct an interview. Bob Woodward talks about investigative journalism. NPR’s Scott Simon talks about how to […]

Digital Literacy and Citizenship: Report from Common Sense Media

posted by Nell Minow

Common Sense Media is an outstanding resource for parents and I am proud to be a member of their board of advisers. Their new report, “Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century: Educating, Empowering, and Protecting America’s Kids,” and […]

List: Great Comedy Duos

posted by Nell Minow

As I was watching Year One, I thought about why the Michael Cera/Jack Black teaming does not work very well. They are both very funny guys, and they have that yin/yang element that propels most comedy teams, with one expansive […]

Jon and Kate Plus D-I-V-O-R-C-E

posted by Nell Minow

The big announcement by Jon and Kate Gosselin that they are divorcing comes as no surprise. While they used the word “separate,” the program acknowledged that it has gone farther than that and that they have filed for dissolution of […]

Did Board Games Cause the Financial Meltdown?

posted by Nell Minow

The Big Money has an interesting — and thought-provoking — slide show suggesting that the roots of the financial crisis come from the lessons we learned as children playing board games. Just look at these directions from Monopoly: Monopoly has […]

What does PG-13 Mean?

posted by Nell Minow

Two movies are opening this week, both rated PG-13, but they are at opposite ends of that very broad spectrum that reaches from the suitable-for-grade-school PGs to the 17-and-up R rating. I will go into more detail in the reviews, […]

Dan Savage Takes on “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody”

posted by Nell Minow

I am a huge fan of advice columnist Dan Savage and his essays for “This American Life.” His recent commentary on the death of his mother brought me to tears. And I am very impressed with his thoughtful assessment of […]

Which is Dirtier — ‘Land of the Lost’ or ‘Hangover?’ (Spoiler Alert)

posted by Nell Minow

The Hangover and Land of the Lost opened on the same day. Other than that, they have little in common. The Hangover is a raunchy comedy about the aftermath of a Las Vegas bachelor party that would have been unforgettable […]

Nancy Drew: Sotomayor’s Childhood Influence

posted by Nell Minow

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, like Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a big Nancy Drew fan when she was a young girl. I’ve been touched by the reports of Judge Sotomayor, growing up in a housing project, devouring […]

The Last of the New York Jewish Movie Comedies?

posted by Nell Minow

New York Magazine uses the upcoming release of a new film by Woody Allen to consider whether this may be the last of the kind of comedy he exemplifies, the New York Jewish schnook, nebbish, and shlemiel comedy, focusing on […]

BFCA Summer Movie Predictions

posted by Nell Minow

The Broadcast Film Critics have announced their predictions for the movies of summer 2009: Summer Blockbusters: Star Trek Up Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Summer Sleepers: Away We Go 500 Days of Summer The Hurt Locker Outstanding Performances […]

Jon and Kate: Can Their Marriage Be Saved?

posted by Nell Minow

Why do we care so much about Jon and Kate? Why is the show about these two people and their twins and sextuplets so popular? And why are their marital problems getting so much attention? I feel terribly sad for […]

Dr. Toy

posted by Nell Minow

Stevanne Auerbach is better known as “Dr. Toy,” and she and her website are great resources for parents on issues of toys and ply. Her book is Dr. Toy’s Smart Play: How To Raise A Child With a High PQ […]

Has ‘Pimp’ Become an Acceptable Term for Children?

posted by Nell Minow

“G-Force” is an upcoming PG-rated comedy from Disney about a crack team of super-agents who happen to be guinea pigs, assisted by a mole and a fly, with voice talent including Tracy Morgan and Steve Buscemi. The trailer makes it […]

10 Things Critics Won’t Tell You

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to Shawn Levy for pointing me to this piece from “Smart Money” about movie critics’ secrets. I enjoyed #5: “I could say a film’s ‘about a lovable misfit,’ but I’ll go with ‘it limns alterity.’” But I don’t think […]

Is Racism Subjective?

posted by Nell Minow

I was the only white person in the elevator after the screening of Next Day Air, and as we went down to the parking lot, I asked the assembled group, none of whom I knew, whether they thought the movie […]

More Marketing of PG-13 Movies to Little Kids

posted by Nell Minow

My friend Liz Perle has a wonderful piece at Common Sense Media about the latest efforts to market PG-13 movies to young children. The first Transformers movie, which was rated PG-13 but lent its brand to Happy Meal toys aimed […]

MaryAnn Johanson

posted by Nell Minow

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has an excellent website that this week includes a very thoughtful essay by MaryAnn Johanson about the week in media. It’s mostly a testosterone fest at the multiplex this weekend, with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” […]

Susan Boyle — What Captivates Us?

posted by Nell Minow

Susan Boyle, the middle-aged Scottish youngest of nine, who does not have a job and spent most of her adult years caring for her late mother, sang on a television show last week and has now become a worldwide phenomenon. […]

Disney’s First African-American Princess

posted by Nell Minow

The Disney Princesses, each the star of her own movie, are now a team and something of a marketing juggernaut. They have transcended their individual stories and now appear together in a wide range of merchandise. And now Snow White […]

Is there a Date Rape Joke in ‘Observe and Report?’

posted by Nell Minow

Observe and Report is a bleak, harsh, disturbing, violent, and transgressive movie about a mall security guard who is often delusional. Billed as a comedy, it has some funny moments, though most of the laughs come from outrageousness rather than […]

What Does the Editor Do?

posted by Nell Minow

Ann Hornaday has a fascinating article in the Washington Post about the impact that an editor has on a film. You’ve heard the expression “the cutting room floor?” That comes from the days when film editors used real scissors and […]

When Not to Watch Movies, Part 1

posted by Nell Minow

I was recently reminded of an incident I wrote about three years ago for the Chicago Tribune and it inspired me to re-post the essay: My husband, daughter and I had just settled in for lunch at one of our […]

Dora’s Makeover, Part 2

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful comments on the new “Dora.” I promised to follow up, so here is the latest picture of what the older version of Dora will look like. As I have said, I am keeping an […]

Does Facebook Make Us Colder and More Impatient?

posted by Nell Minow

Social network sites risk infantilizing the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist. The UK paper The Guardian reports that Lady Greenfield, […]

The Thrill of it All

posted by Nell Minow

Cinematical has a great tribute to one of my favorites, Doris Day’s “The Thrill of it All.” Day was so wholesome that it is easy to forget how talented she was, but she could do it all — sing, dance, […]

Teens Learn About Less in Chicago

posted by Nell Minow

The Chicago Tribune reports on a class that teaches teenagers “voluntary simplicity,” giving up one something significant each month and thinking, talking, and writing about what it feels like. Begun last fall as a project to inspire mindfulness in the […]

Dora’s Disappointing Makeover

posted by Nell Minow

Here is the opening paragraph of a new press release: Mattel, Inc. (NYSE:MAT) and Nickelodeon/Viacom Consumer Products (NVCP), announced today that Dora the Explorer™ is growing up! The companies have introduced a whole new way to look at Dora for […]

Teen ‘Idols’ — How to Talk to Jonas Brothers Fans

posted by Nell Minow

Do you have a Jonas Brothers fan in your family? Or maybe a fanatic? Some parents have found their children’s devotion to the latest pop stars a little disconcerting. One father suggested that his daughter’s enthusiasm might merit a discussion […]

Christian Film-makers Find Their Audience

posted by Nell Minow

NPR has an excellent column by Barbara Bradley Hagerty about the increasing success of faith-inspired films. The San Antonio (Texas) Independent Christian Film Festival in January attracted more than 2000 audience members. And “Fireproof” has made more money than “Slumdog […]

My Policy on Conflicts

posted by Nell Minow

Per the FTC’s guidelines on blog disclosures, here is my policy: I sometimes receive DVDs or other items for review or to give away in contests. All opinions are my own and as readers of the site know, I have […]

More on Scary Movies — from Christianity Today

posted by Nell Minow

Christianity Today asked parents what scary movies have “worked” with their kids — scared them enough to be entertaining and instructive but not too much to be truly upsetting. I found the comments very insightful. Here are some excerpts: I […]

Coraline’s Special Effects

posted by Nell Minow

Wired Magazine has a fascinating story about the breathtaking special effects in “Coraline.” In an era when we are used to astonishingly “true” images generated by computers, the old-school charms of this stop-motion movie, where everything you see was actually […]

Debate: Is ‘The Reader’ Great Art or Hackneyed Tripe?

posted by Nell Minow

“Don’t Give an Oscar to ‘The Reader’” is the headline of an angry Slate essay by Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. Rosenbaum says it is “a film in which all the […]

Miley Cyrus Apologizes Again (Twice)

posted by Nell Minow

It seems like a very minor infraction compared to the recent Chris Brown/Michael Phelps/A-Rod transgressions, but Miley Cyrus had to apologize again — twice — for a photograph that appeared to mock Asians. Her first apology was a bit defensive […]

Bad Timing — This Week’s Releases

posted by Nell Minow

Both of this week’s big mainstream releases are suffering from bad timing. “The International,” inspired by the BCCI banking scandal of 1991, is about a multi-national bank that is involved in everything from weapons sales to political payoffs and even […]

Chris Brown and Michael Phelps — What Do We Tell Kids?

posted by Nell Minow

This has been something of a bad boy week. A-Rod confessed to steroid use. “Dark Knight” star Christian Bale was taped when he erupted into a furious and very profane rage at a technician on his set. A photograph of […]

Is ‘Coraline’ Too Scary for Kids?

posted by Nell Minow

It is always a challenge to guide parents about how scary a movie is, but it is especially difficult with this week’s release of “Coraline,” the 3D stop-motion animated film based on a popular book for children by Neil Gaiman. […]

Super Bowl Ads — Not Family Friendly?

posted by Nell Minow

Many families have Super Bowl traditions as the generations gather around the television to watch the biggest football game of the year. It gives families a wonderful opportunity to share their interests and histories and to talk about the skill, […]

Critics Critiquing Critics

posted by Nell Minow

Critics complain about having to decide how many stars to give a movie. There are times when it does feel very arbitrary to try to assign stars or letter grades to a film. And sometimes I think it creates more […]

Blagojevich Compares Himself to Movie Heroes

posted by Nell Minow

Life imitates art, or tries to, as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proclaims his innocence with examples from the movies. The governor is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama and is currently being impeached by […]

The First Black Presidents — in the Movies

posted by Nell Minow

There is a thoughtful article in the New York Times by film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis about the way that on-screen images of African-Americans in the last five decades have reflected and influenced the way race is understood […]

Special Effects and Their Source in Illustration Art

posted by Nell Minow

David Apatoff’s Illustration Art blog has a wonderful post on how the great illustration artist William A. Smith taught his daughter Kim how to draw and paint, and how she applied that in becoming a special effects designer for the […]

Slate’s Movie Club Analyzes 2008

posted by Nell Minow

Every January Slate Magazine asks some of the country’s top critics to have an exchange of emails about the year in film and reading it is like sitting in on a terrificly well-informed, lively, thoughtful, and provocative conversation about what […]

Scary G-rated Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Emily Bazelon writes in Slate about the scariness of G-rated movies. Like several of the commenters on this site, she found The Tale of Despereaux scarier than she expected and so did her 5-year-old. Even though he had heard the […]

The Worst Movies of 2008 — but some of the Best Reviews

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Post covers Rotten Tomatoes’ round-up of the year’s worst movies and what makes it fun to read is not just the list of what-were-they-thinking horrible films but the quotes from the reviews by the critics who suffered through […]

The Sources of ‘Put a Ring on It’

posted by Nell Minow

The Steady Diet of Film blog has a brilliant analysis of the sources for Beyoncé’s hit video, “Put a Ring on It.” It is not just wise and witty, it is an entertaining glimpse into the combination of mash-ups, wikis, […]

Do Holocaust Movies Help Or Hinder Our Understanding?

posted by Nell Minow

Stuart Klawans, movie critic for The Nation for 20 years, has written a provocative essay about Holocaust movies for the website Nextbook. Like so many other Jews, I have made my contribution toward the multiplication of Holocaust films. On New […]

Christmas Specials and Jewish Children

posted by Nell Minow

December is a long month for Jewish parents. From the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, America is completely saturated with Christmas and it can be very difficult to explain to small children why Santa seems to come to […]

Which Character Would You Like to Be?

posted by Nell Minow

Entertainment Weekly asked its readers which movie character’s life they would like to have and got some wonderfully wide-ranging answers. Yes, some wanted to have lives with lots of money, lots of superpowers, and lots of smooching with very attractive […]

Are Romantic Comedies Bad for Real-Life Romance?

posted by Nell Minow

Do romantic comedies create and foster impossible expectations? Are women doomed to disappointment when no man can possibly measure up to Lloyd Dobbler (Say Anything), William Thacker (Notting Hill) or Joe Fox (You’ve Got Mail) — or Cary Grant in […]

What Can Barbie Teach Us About Judaism?

posted by Nell Minow

What can the most successful doll on the planet show us about being Jewish today? A new film called The Tribe uses the story of the Jewish woman who created the Barbie and Ken dolls to explore the nature of […]

Jessica Alba ‘Enhanced’ for Campari

posted by Nell Minow

What kind of lunatic would try to improve on Jessica Alba? Apparently the folks at Campari felt that the beautifully curvy star was just a little too curvy and they retouched her photo to make her look slimmer. It is […]

Broadcast Film Critics Announce Nominees

posted by Nell Minow

The Broadcast Film Critics Association is the group behind the Critics Choice Awards, the first awards broadcast of the year and the one that has recently been a good predictor of the Oscars. This morning we announced our nominees. As […]

Best of the Best from Blogs About Movies

posted by Nell Minow

One of my very favorite movie critics is writer/speaker Desson Thomson, whose wonderful new website has an archive of reviews, blog posts, clips from his NPR commentaries, and contact information for groups who’d like to have him do a presentation […]

Washington Film Critics Pick ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Area Film Critics have announced our awards for 2008. “Slumdog Millionaire,” the story of an orphan in India whose correct answers on the local version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” lead to suspicions he was cheating, […]

Worst Movies of 2008: New York Post

posted by Nell Minow

According to the New York Post, the worst movies of the year include films with great actors (Al Pacino in “88 Minutes“) and non-actors (Paris Hilton’s “Hottie and the Nottie“). There are failures in the categories of comedy (Adam Sandler’s […]

Inappropriate Trailer Shown Before ‘Twilight’

posted by Nell Minow

Critics usually do not see trailers in our special screenings, so many thanks to the commenters who brought this problem to my attention. Some “Twilight” fans are seeing the disturbing trailer for “The Unborn” before the movie. The choice of […]

Is the Internet a Waste of Time for Teens?

posted by Nell Minow

Parents often fear that their kids are wasting their time clicking around the web. But a new study on teen use of online media commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation found that “America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills […]

Wall?E’s Hidden Secrets

posted by Nell Minow

Now that Wall?E is being released on DVD and you can hit the “pause” button, here are some things to look for:

Still Leaving it to Beaver

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Post has a poignant tribute to Leave It to Beaver from a man who found his favorite childhood show unexpectedly comforting when he was struggling with serious illness. “Leave It to Beaver” rejuvenates me. I need its gentle […]

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 […]

(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 […]

Teach With Movies: Resource for Teachers and Parents

posted by Nell Minow

Teach With Movies is a subscription-based website with teaching materials for over 200 movies, to help teachers and parents use films to begin discussions with children and teenagers about everything from understanding emotions and improving communication to making choices and […]

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. […]

David Thomson’s top 1000 Films

posted by Nell Minow

David Thomson is one writer whose appraisals are as riveting and entertaining as the films and performances he describes. His The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is one of the dozen or so indispensable reference works every film fan needs. […]

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 […]

Toto on Why We Love Horror

posted by Nell Minow

Christian Toto asks why we love horror movies and he comes up with what to me — someone who has very little tolerance for horror movies — some very plausible answers. The entire post is well worth reading and here […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Talking to Children about Poverty

posted by Nell Minow

Families may find that their children have picked up some of the concerns about the economy from the news or overheard adult conversations. They will need to be reassured that even if their families have suffered some financial setbacks, they […]

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 […]

Print Critics vs. Online Critics: A Cineaste Roundtable

posted by Nell Minow

Print and new media writers debate the pros and cons of writing about movies online, where everyone’s a critic in a roundtable from Cineaste, a leading publication on film. In introducing the Critical Symposium on “International Film Criticism Today” in […]

Home Movie Day

posted by Nell Minow

Home Movie Day is October 18, and everyone from Martin Scorsese to John Waters is urging all of us to participate. The Center for Home Movies collects, preserves, provides access to, and promotes understanding of home movies and amateur motion […]

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 […]

Movie Criminal Mistakes

posted by Nell Minow

Cracked has a funny list of the six mistakes always made by movie criminals, from “discussing your crime in a diner” (“Pulp Fiction,” “Thief,” “Heat,” “American Gangster,” “Goodfellas”) to “working with a sociopath” and “talking too much to the people […]

Religulous — Bill Maher Attacks Religion

posted by Nell Minow

Professional Enfant Terrible Bill Maher has a new movie called Religulous in which he attacks religion, religious beliefs, and believers. Beliefnet founder Steven Waldman discusses his decision to run ads for this movie on his blog. He says the movie […]

Red Band Trailers (Rated R)

posted by Nell Minow

“Green Band” trailers begin with a notice that says that while the movie has been rated something else, the trailer itself has been approved for all audiences by the MPAA. I am sure that sometimes the people who make trailers […]

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 […]

Liz Perle on Marketing PG-13 Movies to Younger Kids

posted by Nell Minow

Liz Perle of Common Sense Media has a column on Huffington Post takes on the hypocrisy of the MPAA ratings board. Chair Joan Graves says that PG-13 films may carry parental advisory reminders that they have material inappropriate for kids […]

Rolling Stone on the State of Comedy

posted by Nell Minow

The cover of the comedy issue of Rolling Stone has David Letterman, Tina Fey, and Chris Rock and the stories inside include raucous recollections of “notes,” the edits and suggestions from studio and network executives. My favorite is Mel Brooks’ […]

Look Who’s Playing Video Games

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Post has a great photo of my friend Ally Burguieres playing video games with her mother and sister. The article says: Women and girls make up 40 percent of the gamer population, according to the Entertainment Software Association, […]

What Makes a Cult Movie?

posted by Nell Minow

Desson Thomson has a great interview with Scott Simon on NPR about cult movies — what (and who) defines them and what is appealing about them. What do the Coen brothers have in common with “The Wizard of Oz” and […]

More on Language from the Las Vegas Review-Journal

posted by Nell Minow

“Language packs a punch in culture,” says a column by Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter John Przybys about the debate over Tropic Thunder. Przybys and I had a long talk about this subject and he quoted me in the column: Nell […]

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 […]

Pastor’s Parables Taken from Movies

posted by Nell Minow

The Washington Post Metro section has an article about a pastor who uses movies to bring spiritual lessons to his congregation. For a special series of sermons this summer, Senior Pastor Rob Seagears at Christ Chapel Mountaintop in Prince William […]

The TIVO and Netflix Picks We Get and Don’t Watch

posted by Nell Minow

By coincidence, two publications ran similar articles this week about the difference between what we think we want to see and what we actually sit down to watch. Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris asks readers to fess up about the television […]

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 […]

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 […]

Book for Concerned Parents: So Sexy So Soon

posted by Nell Minow

The authors of the book “So Sexy So Soon,” Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne, say that children are constantly bombarded by the media and advertisers with images and portrayals of hyper-sexuality. Thong panties, padded bras, and risqué Halloween costumes for […]

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 […]

Desson Thomson on Archetypes in ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘American Teen’

posted by Nell Minow

One of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable movie critics I know, Desson Thomson, appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” this week to talk to Scott Simon about what ties “Dark Knight” and the new documentary “American Teen” together — the way […]

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 […]

Good Review of A Bad Film — Cynthia Fuchs on ‘Step Brothers’

posted by Nell Minow

I often say that when movies are good, critics are very, very good, but when movies are bad, they’re better. It is a challenge sometimes to write an interesting, meaningful review of a dumb comedy like Step Brothers. One of […]

Dennis Lim on Movie Fight Scenes

posted by Nell Minow

Anything Dennis Lim writes about movies reflects his exceptional knowledge and insight and is a pleasure to read. His latest piece is about the way fight scenes are staged in movies is terrific — and his insights are accompanied by […]

Comic-Con 2008, Part 3 (Igor, On The Bubble, and Joss Whedon’s Latest)

posted by Nell Minow

I had a private interview with Chris McKenna, screenwriter of an animated release due out this fall called “Igor.” It is the story of a hunchbacked lab assistant to an evil scientist who wants to be more. Voice talent for […]

Comic-Con 2008, Part 2 (Spaced, MAD, and Lynda Barry)

posted by Nell Minow

More highlights, observations and pictures from Comic-Con 2008 Most of the presenters mentioned that their name cards had a cautionary note on the back reminding them that they should be careful about what they said because there would likely be […]

The Language of Film

posted by Nell Minow

Michael Wohl has a great introduction to the language of film — the way different kinds of shots and camera movements help to tell the story. This is an outstanding resource for anyone who wants to understand the way that […]

Comic-Con 2008 (Red Sonja, The Rock, Spike’s Scream Queens)

posted by Nell Minow

An Elvis impersonator in a “Star Wars” storm trooper outfit with a lot of bling (think “This is Elvis” vintage) was about to introduce Superman surrounded by a bevy of Princess Leias in the harem girl outfit. I love Comic-Con. […]

Comic-Con 2008

posted by Nell Minow

I’m getting ready for one of my favorite events of the year, Comic-Con in San Diego. It began in 1970 with a few dozen comic collectors swapping comics and stories. This year, all 125,000 passes were sold out long before […]

PG-13 Superheroes in Pre-K Books

posted by Nell Minow

Children’s book author Erica S. Perl has a gallery in Slate about books for early readers featuring superheroes from PG-13 movies like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man and even the very violent and disturbing Dark Knight. Perl reports that […]

X-Files Artifacts at the Smithsonian

posted by Nell Minow

The setting was almost too perfect. In order to get to the ceremony for the donation of X-Files artifacts and memorabilia I had to go into the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History through the “staff health center” entrance inside […]

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 […]

Women Critics on Superhero Movies

posted by Nell Minow

The members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists speak out on superhero movies. Are they just for boys? MaryAnn Johanson, who’s carved her critic’s niche by taking superhero movies seriously, provides an introduction: “Comic books and comic book movies […]

Are Movie Fans Smarter and More Creative?

posted by Nell Minow

A Mindset Media study finds that people who go to the movies more than three movies a month, they are more likely to be highly optimistic, creative, or assertive. “We asked ourselves why, with insane gas prices and video-on-demand, would […]

Wall?E’s Apple Easter Eggs

posted by Nell Minow

Slashdot has identified some of the hidden Pixar in-jokes and Apple references in Wall?E. Be sure to read the comments for many more. The New York Times also has some info on the involvement of Apple industrial designer Johnny Ive […]

What Kids Learn from ‘Silly’ Media

posted by Nell Minow

FlowTV, the always-interesting scholarly online publication about media, has a thoughtful article by Aaron Delwiche of Trinity University called “‘What we me worry?’ What the new media literacy movement can learn from Mad Magazine and Wacky Packages.” Delwiche makes some […]

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 […]

Movies about Values

posted by Nell Minow

Beliefnet has posted my gallery of movies that illustrate important values like integrity, courage, courtesy, learning, and peace. Movies are our sagas, our myths, our touchstones, and our collective cultural heritage. They are also one way that we teach ourselves […]

Where are the Wild Things Going?

posted by Nell Minow

It seemed almost too good to be true. One of the best children’s books of the 20th century, Where the Wild Things Are, written and directed by Maurice Sendak, was going to be made into a movie written and directed […]

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 […]

J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Speech

posted by Nell Minow

One of my favorite authors spoke about one of my favorite subjects when Harry Potter author Joanne Rowling addressed the graduating class at Harvard University. Many commencement speakers urge the new graduates departing from the ivory tower to succeed in […]

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 […]

Red Band Trailers

posted by Nell Minow

Most movie trailers shown in theaters are “green band” trailers. Even though the movies they advertise may be rated PG-13 or R, the trailers themselves have been approved for all audiences by the MPAA Ratings Board, as they make clear […]

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 […]

Interview: Karen Osborne talks about treating Asperger Syndrome through Second Life

posted by Nell Minow

Karen Osborne is a research clinician at the University of Texas Center for Brain Health. Her background is in speech pathology. She is now coordinating the project that works on social skills and spoke to me about a new project […]

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 […]

Parents fret over appropriateness of movies for kids (Appleton Post-Crescent)

posted by Nell Minow

Cheryl Sherry’s column in the Appleton Post-Crescent discusses a new survey showing that PG movies with strong language sell fewer tickets than those with other kinds of parental concerns like violence or sex. “The reality is that profanity, within PG, […]

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 […]

Believer’s annual Film Issue

posted by Nell Minow

My very favorite magazine, The Believer, has an annual issue on one of my very favorite topics: Movies. And this one is their best, yet, with Chuck Klosterman’s essay on what I always say is the single most popular theme […]

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 […]

Previous Posts

Trailer: Samuel L. Jackson is the President in "Big Game"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKThy0cipVA ...

posted 8:00:34am Apr. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Song from the Forest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekirhw2MMwQ I was delighted to see that there is a documentary about Louis Sarno, whose work I have admired since I saw the wonderful film Oka! directed by Lavinia ...

posted 8:00:43am Apr. 24, 2015 | read full post »

The Age of Adaline
Be careful what you wish for.  You think it would be great to stay 29 forever?  Adaline (Blake Lively) finds out that it is not great to become unstuck from time, to watch everyone you love grow old and die, to hurt those you care about ...

posted 5:59:10pm Apr. 23, 2015 | read full post »

The Water Diviner
Before it detours into not one, not two, but at least three preposterous Hollywood twists, "The Water Diviner" is an absorbing drama about ...

posted 5:58:54pm Apr. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Critics Write About Our First Encounters with Star Wars
The latest Criticwire survey asks for our first encounters with "Star Wars." I had a lot of fun writing about mine: A long, long time ...

posted 9:22:38am Apr. 23, 2015 | read full post »

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