All posts by Allyson Gronowitz

’13 Reasons Why’ Tackles Tough but Important Topics – and that’s why it’s Must-See TV

13 Reasons Why, Netflix’s hit new show, is an impossible endeavor. Adapted from the #1 New York Times bestselling young adult novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why revolves around a suicide and prominently features cyberbullying and sexual assault. For many, the subject matter is deemed too weighty; for others, the “teen drama” genre is dismissed as insubstantial. But these seemingly contradictory elements combine in a way that makes the show all the more important. For all of its flaws – and the internet proclaims that there are many13 Reasons Why succeeds in bringing certain issues into the open, promoting discussion in order to de-stigmatize. Through a staggeringly talented cast of young actors, the show also offers a more authentic look at the teenage experience (as opposed to, say, anything on the CW) that should be embraced by current teens, former teens, parents of teens, and pretty much everyone else, too.

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Blu-ray Pick: ‘Miss Hokusai’ Spotlights the Bold, Talented Daughter of a Famous Japanese Painter

Miss Hokusai, now out on DVD and Blu-ray, is a film that is notable as much for its own meta-history as it is for the story depicted within. From Production I.G., the anime studio responsible for the beloved Ghost in the Shell series, and award-winning director Keiichi Hara, Miss Hokusai presents the true story of the prolific Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (also known as Tetsuzo) and his lesser known but just as talented daughter O-Ei. Though the film doesn’t adhere to any sort of traditional plot structure – which can make the pacing feel rather slow and disjointed – it offers compelling character portraits of a historical figure who rightfully deserve a larger spotlight.

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Flipping the Script on: Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Third Star’

Welcome to “Flipping the Script,” a monthly column where I will reconsider recent films that have been panned, frowned upon, or simply under appreciated. I believe that movies should speak to us on a deep, personal level, and this column will consist of films that have done that for me despite widespread derision or apathy. Join me on my noble quest for cinematic redemption! This month we go on the search for the Third Star!

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Blu-ray Pick: Gael García Bernal Publicizes the Migrant Experience in Jonás Cuarón’s ‘Desierto’

The best kinds of movies provide emotional context to the thorniest political, ideological and philosophical issues that plague us as a species. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, Desierto, Jonás Cuarón’s Spanish-language feature, tackles one of the most topical concerns of the current United States administration: illegal immigration. By laying out the issue in narrative form, Cuarón adds a relatable, human face to a contentious concept, and delivers a thriller of a cat-and-mouse chase along the way.

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Blu-ray Pick: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton Deliver Powerhouse Performances in ‘Loving’

For such a groundbreaking story, Jeff Nichols’ Loving, now available on DVD and Blu-ray, is notable for its silence. Although the quiet solemnity of a sparse script served Nichols well in the case of his other 2016 critical darling, Midnight Special, the historic Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision invalidating laws that prohibited interracial marriage may have required a bit more dramatic build-up. Fortunately, Loving’s two lead actors – Ruth Negga, nominated for an Academy Award for this role, and the chameleon-like Joel Edgerton – elevate the movie through their characters by tenderly tapping into the steady strength that defines their humanity.

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Flipping the Script on: ‘Pacific Rim’

Welcome to “Flipping the Script,” a monthly column where I will reconsider recent films that have been panned, frowned upon, or simply under appreciated. I believe that movies should speak to us on a deep, personal level, and this column will consist of films that have done that for me despite widespread derision or apathy. Join me on my noble quest for cinematic redemption!
Robots vs. monsters. Enough said, right?

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Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Shine a Spotlight on Syria

As someone with a short attention span who also embraces opportunities to learn more about the world, I have always appreciated the allure of documentary shorts. As usual, however, the 2017 crop of Academy Award nominees in the Documentary Shorts category fixate on weighty, worldwide topics: Three out of the five nominees deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by the violent rise of ISIS (“4.1 Miles,” “The White Helmets,” “Watani: My Homeland”), while a third spotlights end-of-life care (“Extremis”). Yet there is a common theme threaded throughout all of these docs, and that is the unwavering kindness of strangers, and the undaunted strength of the human spirit. In a cruel and chaotic world, that’s definitely something to root for.

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