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We need less escapism, more introspection in movies

We need less escapism, more introspection in movies

Movies offer escapism, right? That's been the mantra of the machine since the beginning of the industry. Conspiracy theorists will tell you it's the only reason the picture business exists; heck, maybe they're right. 

That doesn't mean all movies suck us into other worlds to distract us from our own. The good ones give us a new lens with which to view our own planet and perhaps a new way to look at the world around us. We need more of those in 2017 and fewer films that regurgitate things we're already comfortable with. 

I'll admit I don't know where this starts. Films like "Patriots Day" retell stories without challenging its viewers while superhero movies like "Civil War" are too timid to go beyond the tropes and themes we already accept. So who pushes back? The mainstream films need to challenge their viewers more than they do in a time when the world most wants to hide. 

In my favorite film from 2015, "Steve Jobs," the titular character says "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." It's arrogant, but he's got a point. Audiences think they want to escape, but I think, or perhaps just hope, at their core people want to be challenged by their films. They want heroes to make legitimately difficult choices. They know what's a real choice and when they're being patronized. 

A talented filmmaker shows her chops can use a 'real' (read: non-fantasy) stories to showcase important themes. "The Social Network" isn't about the founding of Facebook; it's about the cost of ambition. "Saving Private Ryan" isn't about World War II; it's about what we're willing to sacrifice even when we don't know what we're sacrificing for. Films that fall short of that (hi, "Argo!") are wasting the opportunity of a gorgeous canvas. 

Films will always have an essence of escapism to them because, you know, it's entertainment. But filmmakers should embrace what's most captivating about their art: the ability to take a story about anything and make their audience think and feel something they wouldn't have otherwise. To do otherwise, particularly in 2017, is a disservice to the world. 

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Under the Shadow (2016)

Under the Shadow (2016)

Best Picture nominees unveiled

Best Picture nominees unveiled