He gave us BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN back in 2009, and as many directorial debuts can be, the result was uneven and lacking in authority. Now, John Krasinski has helmed another film, and while THE HOLLARS is endearing, it doesn’t show a lot of growth in direction.

John Hollar (Krasinski) has an eccentric family. His father, Don (Richard Jenkins) cries at the drop of a hat; his brother, Ron (Sharlto Copley) is in his 30s and has the responsibility of a child; and his mother, Sally (Margo Martindale)… Well, Sally just found out she has a brain tumor.

imageJohn travels back to his childhood home, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), to be with his family. But when he arrives, he is bombarded by the mess that his family has created around them. Ron has divorced his wife (Ashley Dyke) and is slowly being driven crazy by her new Reverend boyfriend (Josh Groban), and Don can’t keep the family business from sliding into bankruptcy. Sally’s nurse (Charlie Day) is now married to John’s ex-girlfriend, making things a little awkward for John, who is already feeling anxiety about his and Rebecca’s relationship.

The characters in the story are brilliant, and transparent to a fault. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of comedy for the sake of comedy in THE HOLLARS. The plot seems to be staged around gimmicks, and the more poignant moments of the film are sometimes a little bit clumsily juxtaposed with the latter.

But there are nuggets dispersed throughout the film that make up for the uneven pacing and cartoonish humor. The story may have its flaws, but the characters are still relatable. For a fun watch to bide the time until Oscar contenders start cropping up, check THE HOLLARS out at Midtown Cinema!


The Alarming Separation of Body and Soul

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I had a single, striking moment in which I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw.

I have never had body image problems. I’m cute, and I know it, and I have taken pride in that over the years (not that I’m cute but that I know it). I have never thought I wasn’t pretty enough, or wished I had different arms or legs (I may occasionally gripe about my boobs, but I actually do like them), because that’s what society wants us to think, and fuck society. I have, of course, had weight concerns, which those of you who have read past blog posts can confirm. But this was always a concern under the assumption that I am my body, and that the only things that need fixing are the things that prevent me from being healthy. My only concern with the way I look is if it reflects who I am.

Over the years, I have listened to people complain about their bodies. People would say, “I wish I could lose twenty pounds,” or, “I hate how short I am,” or “I wish I had straighter hair,” etc. If they could just thin down, or have a little bit more bulge in their biceps, then they would feel prettier or better about themselves. My immediate reaction has always been one of horror. I knew this person the way she was right now — her weight was her. His gangly frame made him who he was. For someone to change who they were physically would somehow be changing who they were mentally and spiritually. I always kind of liked the romanticism of dualism of the mind and body — it’s a great concept, philosophically and theologically — but judging by my behavior I clearly wasn’t quite ready to subscribe to it… I couldn’t separate people from their bodies. It felt weird to me.

But not this morning. This morning, I looked in the mirror, and saw my rib cage through my chest, and felt a pang of disgust for the shell that was my body. For one fleeting instant, I was a soul trapped in a tightly wrapped bag of bones. I could picture my skeleton underneath my skin with such stark clarity that it was unnerving. And I thought, I hate my body.

Let’s pause here.

I don’t actually hate my body.

But those thoughts pop into our heads so often. We are creatures of passion, and of extremes: we love to say that we love things (see what I did there?) and hate things, even if we may just like or dislike them. But the more we recite our mantras, the more we believe them.

imageBut the most disturbing thing to me was that, in that moment, that was not me. That was the thing encapsulating me. When I say I felt like a “soul trapped in a tightly wrapped bag of bones”, I mean I felt like I was literally being contained by my body — I was stuck in it, like a car that I wanted to trade in.

I finally crossed over into that world, even if just for a second, where I could see myself as something trapped in a cage I despised. I don’t know if that is how other people feel, sometimes, or all times, about their bodies. Maybe that is the world that people live in every day. But I never want to go back to that world. I don’t want to see my body as something that is foreign, something that I want to flee from. My body is me. Those ribs sticking out are not just my ribs, they are me. My skin, my internal organs, my conditions, they are who I am. They are not just things that have been done to me.

It’s been a long, long year. A year in which I have had to accept a lot of things about myself, and deal with a lot of things that I’m still trying to understand about the world around me. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I own myself. If I don’t like something about myself, whether it is physical or spiritual, then my goal is to view it as something I can work on and hone into something better. But I don’t ever want to flee myself. If this is who I am, then I had better either get used to it, or find a way to improve upon it, because that’s who I am.

Sit down, dualism. I’ll save you for a rainy day.


No one wants to reminisce about when they were thirteen years old.

In fact, no one wants to be thirteen years old; especially when you’re moving to a new neighborhood — scratch that, new country — and are going to be the only black kid in town. That pretty much eliminates any initial chances of fitting in.

Morris (Markees Christmas) has this problem. In director Chad Hartigan’s newest film, MORRIS FROM AMERICA, we see the pinnacle of awkward middle school angst: Morris and his father, Curtis (Craig Robinson) have just moved to Heidelberg, Germany for Curtis’s job as a professional soccer coach. Morris doesn’t want to be in Germany; Morris wants to be back in the States, working on his dream of becoming a rapper. There’s no way he wants to put himself out there, barely knowing the language, and make friends. But when even his language instructor, Inka (Carla Juri) tells him that he needs to go out and meet people his own age, Morris decides to go to the local youth club.

imageAlmost instantly, Morris meets a girl. For a thirteen year old, puppy love is a big deal, and when Katrin (Lina Keller) pays attention to him, it’s an even bigger deal. But Katrin hangs with a racy crowd, and the more Morris wants to be cool (in tune with his “gangsta rapper” ambitions), the more trouble he finds himself in.

Hartigan gracefully meshes relatable characters with unique circumstances, resulting in a completely fresh perspective for this coming-of-age story — while it is already natural for a thirteen year old to feel alienated, the scenario is a little more stacked for Morris as he is thrust into a completely different world. And the relationship between Morris and his father feels completely natural and ingrained — there is still the stern quality of parenthood in Robinson’s performance, but it is clear that father and son are also friends. This is largely due to the chemistry that Robinson and Christmas bring to the screen: they are perfectly cast.

With its high energy and realistic undertones, MORRIS FROM AMERICA is a delight. Starting 9/9 at Midtown Cinema!


My toes sink into the soil around me.
It is not clay, it is not sturdy,
    but it is ground,
    and it feels good.
And maybe it’s temporary,
    placed there by our own hands,
    by our own demands,
    the sands of our own experiences;
    but maybe it’s malleable,
    and maybe I’ll stay.
My feet sure feel that way.

But even as my toes sink,
    I think
    that for my eyes to match my feet
    would be a shame.
I want my eyes to be traveling eyes,
    free roaming and not stuck in the mud.
When the sun shifts in the sky,
    our faces shift to welcome its rays.
It is only then that we see our neighbors.

You there, next to me:
For what it’s worth, I see you.
Our feet reside in separate soil,
    your feet there, my feet here,
    but let me learn about your sand.
Let me learn what’s got you grounded.
Though it differs from me,
    our leaves, they reach.
We touch lives
    as we photosynthesize.

I don’t require your uprooting,
    and I ask you not to require that of me–
    no need to plant yourself in my vicinity–
    but the sun feels better on our faces
    when we feel it together.