Jon in Theory: What Makes a Movie Character Likable?

Have you ever heard a film critic or general film-loving person tell you the characters in a movie were “likable?” I’ve done this too many times to count in reviews and podcasts, but what does it really mean? What do different people mean when they invoke “likable” characters?

I’m not sure if I thoroughly tackle the topic, but hopefully this quick recording lays out a guideline for how I think we should talk about movie characters in ways that are more useful for others. Whether you’re talking to a coworker about the latest Marvel movie or writing a think piece about Midnight Cowboy (which, admittedly, has some seriously unlikable characters).

My main point, which goes beyond general film discourse, is to stop assuming people understand what you mean when you say something that’s commonly said. This applies to basic communication on a whole range of topics, but when recommending a film or telling people what you dislike about a film, this can be especially useful to keep in mind. We all want to be likable ourselves, right?

Hope you enjoy the video, and you can find the Twitter thread I mentioned right here, as well as the video essay thread I brought up and the Marvel Symphonic Universe video.


 

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Cinemaholics Review: Red Sparrow and Love, Simon

red sparrow

Special guests Mae Abdulbaki and Kimber Myers joined the show this week to help us review Red Sparrow, a new spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton, directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation). Of course, Maveryke Hines and Will Ashton were also on the show, so we had a full panel to discuss what turned out to be a painfully bad film, at least in my opinion. We also opened the show with some light discussion about the 2018 Oscars.

We certainly had more positive things to say about some of the films and shows in our Mini Reviews. To start us off, Kimber shared her thoughts on Love, Simon, a new teen romantic comedy about “coming out.” Maveryke and I gave a passionate plea for listeners to start binging Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix, especially now that Season 3 has landed. Will talked us through a new British comedy called The Party, which should be on your radar. And I did my best to articulate my complicated thoughts on the new Netflix original series Everything Sucks!

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Cinemaholics Podcast: Our Top 10 Movies of 2017

2017

2017 is over, but we’re just getting started. I’m not usually the biggest fan of conversations over general rankings (my yearly power rankings aside), but I do find them most useful years later, when I’m trying to remember what I thought of the filmgoing landscape with some perspective. That’s why I do rankings, period, and it’s triple effective when I get to hear Top 10s from my Cinemaholics cohosts.

Our lists do feature some expected overlap, including a clear Cinemaholics “winner,” if you want to call it that. Turns out Brigsby Bear had the most collective impact on me, Will Ashton, and Maveryke Hines, and hopefully some of you awesome listeners.

Enjoy the episode, and if you just can’t wait, here are our Top 10 lists written out below.

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The Shape of Water: The Past is the Key to the Future

the shape of water

Watching The Shape of Water, I expected a wholly original story based on a simple premise. A woman falls in love with a merman. Instead, Guillermo del Toro’s film has a surprisingly familiar set of themes and ideas. Its originality lies in how it blends three core messages for the viewer to internalize.

The first message: the past is the key to the future. This scaly, unpredictable creature found in the Amazon is implied to be an ancient force of nature far removed from the technological advances of 60s Baltimore. Yet every character wants to use this creature as a device for unlocking the future. A competitive future. A future of scientific discoveries. Even a future of artistic expression.

The second message: the people who will unlock the future are the silent. The unseen. The meek will indeed inherit the earth. Finally, the third message: love is the purest way to unlock the future, bringing about our greatest talents. Love is our purpose.

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Last Flag Flying: When Loving Country is as Easy as Hating It

last flag flying

We’re dependent on the government. We’re dependent on the military. We’re dependent on our soldiers. So when you put your faith and trust into the very entities that hold the key to your survival, it stings all the more when you experience the ugly side of America and war. Especially if you’re a soldier.

Richard Linklater has directed some of my favorite films of all time, so I didn’t hesitate to catch a viewing of his new film Last Flag Flying. It’s a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail, in that it tells a simple road trip story about three aging Vietnam War veterans in 2003.

One of those veterans (“Doc,” played by Steve Carrell) has recently lost his son to the horrors of the Iraq War. His fellow former marines (Sal, played by Bryan Cranston and Mueller, played by Laurence Fishburne) embark on a quest to help Doc bury his son at home in New Hampshire instead of at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.

“I’m not going to bury a marine,” Doc says. “I’m just going to bury my son.” If that sounds unpatriotic to you, then Last Flag Flying has you on its allegorical mind.

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Cinemaholics Review: Lady Bird and Murder on the Orient Express

Murder

For the show this week, I’m joined by my regular co-host Will Ashton and special guest Kristen Lopez from Paste Magazine, Film School Rejects, and The Young Folks to review Murder on the Orient Express and Lady Bird, two films that honestly couldn’t be anymore different, but we’ll get to that in the podcast.

We originally recorded the show with Mini Reviews as usual, but sound issues forced us to cut the episode in half (which worked out because the episode had gone on far longer than planned). We’ll do those reviews for CocoLast Flag Flying, and Walking Dead Season 8 next week.

That said, the main show covers two featured reviews at length, no spoilers for either. The first movie is Lady Bird, a wonderful A24 film directed and written by Greta Gerwig that has been topping many “best of 2017” lists already on the minds of critics. It’s yet another Oscar-worthy performance from Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) complemented by a fantastic cast. Murder on the Orient Express is the second review of the show, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s landmark novel. It’s the classic “whodunnit” modernized for 2017, so be sure to manage your expectations if you’re planning on giving this one a shot.

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Cinemaholics Review: Thor: Ragnarok and Stranger Things 2

Thor

I always feel bad about writing the headlines for these because we reviewed a lot more than Thor: Ragnarok and Stranger Things Season 2. We also talked about WonderstruckThe Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Super Mario Odyssey (a game for once!), in addition to the heavy hitters you want to hear about.

On Thor: Ragnarok, we spent some time debating our opinions on the first two Thor movies, followed by a thorough discussion on this new film. Will Ashton and I had the most disagreement over the film, while Maveryke Hines had an opinion somewhere in the middle. As always, it made for a fantastic debate I’ll be curious to revisit in a few months when the dust has settled. For now, I can safely say that director Taika Waititi should be allowed to do whatever film he wants from now until the end of time.

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