These two are authentic, accessible, iconic marketers AND human beings. We discussed the need for a consistent (and empathetic) drumbeat of thought leadership, how good and responsive design is key to powerful communications, the energizing nexus of art and commerce, the therapeutic benefits of writing, and how taking a helpful and conversational approach to social media is key to growth.
Mentions during the show include Tom Nixon, Susan Ahern, Susie Sexton, Don Lee, Nikki Bagdady Horn, Stephanie Preston, Clark Hill Law, Kerr Russell, Trott Law, Jem and the Holograms, Thanos, Tom Hanks, “Gretchen Warner,” Infinity Gauntlet, Legal Marketing Association, Traverse City, baseball, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, art, dogs, unsupervised second graders, Mad Men, and more. Enjoy!
Join me and guests Heather and Jay Harrington, founders of Harrington Communications, as we discuss the importance of thought leadership and PR in legal marketing, marrying smart design with good content, and what it took to start their own agency that has turned top professional services firms into titans of industry.
Jay and Heather also have fascinating interests that include Heather’s spectacular art career – Life and Whim – and Jay’s books and publications. We are looking forward to picking the brains of this outstanding duo, and we know it’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.
Roy Sexton ’95 has been appointed as treasurer of the 2021 Legal Marketing Association – LMA International (LMA) Board of Directors. LMA represents thousands of legal marketing and business development professionals in 48 U.S. states and 24 countries.
“Being on the LMA Board of Directors is the apex of one’s volunteer leadership within the Legal Marketing Association and is significant in advancing the legal marketing profession as a whole,” LMA Executive Director Danielle Holland said in a news release.
Sexton, director of marketing at Clark Hill Law, has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development and strategic planning.
He has been heavily involved in the LMA as a regional and international leader and has served on numerous nonprofit boards and committees including the Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Royal Starr Arts Institute, EncoreMichigan.com.
“I am honored to serve on the 2021 LMA Board of Directors, and I look forward to the opportunity to help guide the association’s important work,” Sexton said in the release. “LMA will continue to provide outstanding programming and opportunities for professional development and networking to our members and advocate for our profession, locally, regionally and internationally.”
While at Wabash College, Sexton majored in English and theater and was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha and involved with the Wabash Theater, the Bachelor and Student Senate.
Sexton’s LMA appointment became effective January 1, 2021.
Our Clark Hill marketing and business development team has been on quite the journey over the last couple of years. It has been a great growth opportunity and one of the more enriching work experiences of my life. Out of the blue, REDSTARKIM LIMITED Managing Director Kim Tasso wrote about our work, based on a webinar we did six months ago! A lovely surprise!
Grateful for our exceptional and supportive leader Susan Ahern and for wonderful and inventive colleagues Megan McKeon , Guinevere Lehman Anderson , Emilie Strozier McCarthy , Shayna McCloskey , Tommy Franz , Dani Carter , Alexandra France , Gloria Pak , Elizabeth C. Jeffries , Stacey Marie , Maureen Denney , Keith Hobbs , Katelynn Schwalm , Alé Simmons , Amy Oldiges , Kimberly Reisman , Leslie Smithson.
From the blog entry’s intro: “In September, the international senior marketing and business development team at Clark Hill presented a webinar for the Professional Marketing Forum. The topic was ‘Clark Hill redesigns its marketing and BD team’. The work to re-imagine its marketing and business development (M&BD) team won Clark Hill the Best Marketing Initiative Award at the 2020 Managing Partners’ Forum Management Excellence Awards.”
SAVE THE DATE! February 11, 12:05 pm ET. Brenda Meller of Meller Marketing and I return to thunderdome! We will discuss what it means to be a superfan and how that can benefit your networking, branding, and marketing efforts. Celebrate, advocate, reciprocate.
“Who’s zoomin’ who?” Detroit great Aretha Franklin once queried in song. Little did we know how prescient that sassy lyric would be some 30 years later. Here we all remain in our homes waiting for the cloud of pandemic to hopefully/eventually pass, anxious not only for our health and safety but for the chaotically mercurial state of a society that spins off its axis on a daily basis. How do we remain connected? Will human contact be forever limited to misleading social media messages and Zoom-enabled video jail cells? Only time will tell.
This existential dread hovers atop playwright Jacquelyn Priskorn’s incisive two-hander Whatcha Doin? The play is delivered via, yes, the ubiquitous Zoom, but makes effective use of the surreally detached intimacy that the platform provides.
From Theatre NOVA’s press release: “In Whatcha Doin?, a film student interviews a former child star turned voice over actor for a documentary project. Thrilled to witness Marnie’s work-from-home recording studio in action, Raven is surprised to learn about the difficulties Marnie had while portraying the goofy, unattractive kid on a TV series, but even more so, Raven is curious about why Marnie is now unable to leave her home. Whatcha Doin? is directed by Theatre NOVA Producing Artistic Director, Diane Hill and features Kate Stark and Megan Wesner.”
Stark and Wesner are compelling presences, defying the inherent limitations of webinar acting, with bright and engaging but wholly natural styles. Given Zoom’s challenges, the performer has to “pop” beyond a gauzy digital haze … but not *too* much. Not quite film, not quite stage, effective characterization has to break through the uncanny valley, remaining humanistic, yet not becoming flat. Stark and Wesner both excel, building a dynamic relationship in a brisk 20 minutes that is compelling, believable, poignant, and deeply affecting. To capture the ephemeral spark of unfolding friendship is tricky business on stage or screen, so it is a rare, almost voyeuristic thrill to watch Stark and Wesner’s nuanced work here.
With Hill’s expert direction, there is a beautiful embrace of the awkwardness inherent in online conversations. I haven’t really seen anybody capture as well the strange dance of smiles and pauses and sidelong glances that Zoom inspires. They nail it here. The script which is deceptively clever addresses the fluidity of identity in this modern age, supercharged as that can be across the bits and bytes of a computer screen.
Whether we realize it or not, we all are engaged in a minute-by-minute act of reclaiming, shaping, and reimagining who we are across digital platforms and IRL. This pas de deux of identity and belonging is deftly depicted in both script and production without hitting the viewer over the head. Highly recommend.
Tickets are $10 each month, or $30 for a Series Pass which admits ticket holders to a new play each month, January through April, 2021. Purchase tickets online at www.TheatreNova.org. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds benefit Theatre NOVA’s ongoing efforts to stay alive through the pandemic.
Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights, presents its new PLAY OF THE MONTH Zoom Play Series, featuring new plays written specifically for the Zoom format each month.
Due to the success of their Zoom Play Series Festival that ran in October, 2020, and in keeping with their mission to raise awareness of the value and excitement of new plays and playwrights, Theatre NOVA will present a new short play (20-40 minutes long) each month, January through April, 2021. The series opens with Whatcha Doin? by Jacquelyn Priskorn, performed live on Wednesday, January 27th at 8:00pm and available on video for the month of February.
Jacquelyn Priskorn(Playwright) has been writing plays since she took her first class with playwright Kitty Dubin in 1997. She has had several plays and screenplays produced since that first class, including the award-winning short film, “The Guest Room” (shown at the Strasbourg Film Festival in France), as well as a screenplay, “Love & Plutonium,” which is currently available on DVD. Her play “Love Shackles” was published in “Quick & Painless: Saturday Night Lites 2004-2005 Season” distributed by Original Works. “Glass Slipper, Size 8 ½,” “The Rot,” “The Reckless Romantic” and “Off Center” (Best Play at the Oakland University Actor Showcase) are currently available through Brooklyn Publishing. “Good Morning, Miriam” received the Jury’s Choice Award at the Detroit Fringe Forward Festival, along with Best New Play from New Plays from the Heartland, and The Chameleon Theatre Circle’s 17th annual one act play contest.
Diane Hill (Director) is a Producing Artistic Director at Theatre NOVA and was founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Two Muses Theatre, a nonprofit, professional theatre in West Bloomfield. Diane was a professor at University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland Community College, where she originated and designed the Theatre degree program. She has a Ph.D. in Theatre from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. At Theatre NOVA, she directed “Clutter,” “Follies in Concert” and “Kill Move Paradise” (Council Cargle Award for Excellence in Diverse Storytelling).” Theatre NOVA audiences saw her play Olympe de Gouges in “The Revolutionists” (Wilde Award Best Production), Penelope Easter in “The Totalitarians,” Zelda in “The How and the Why” (Wilde Award Best Actress), and Sherri in “Admissions.”
Kate Stark (Marnie) is a dancer, actor, singer, choreographer, and voice over artist based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds BAs in Biological Anthropology and Broadcast Journalism from Miami University and in a previous life was a TV news producer. Kate performs and teaches with companies like Cincinnati Ballet, Carnegie Center for the Performing Arts, Cincinnati Landmark Productions, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, The Know Theatre, Dancing with Parkinson’s, InBocca Performance, and Pones Inc. Favorite roles: Judy Turner (“A Chorus Line”), Jean MacLaren (“Brigadoon”), Phyllis Dale (“42nd Street”), Nellie (“Nellie Bly: A Menace to Propriety”), and Texas (“Cabaret”).
Megan Wesner (Raven) is excited to be working with Theatre NOVA for the first time. They have previously worked as an actor, director, scenic painter, and stagehand for various Michigan theaters including the Wharton Center, Wild Swan Theatre Company, All-of-Us Express, the Purple Rose Theatre Company, and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. Megan graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Arts & Humanities and Theatre. They currently reside in Chelsea, Michigan.
“How are law firms using CRM and other marketing and business development software increasing the ROI on these technology investments? Christopher Raymond of Intapp, Chris Fritsch, JD of CLIENTSFirst Consulting, and Roy Sexton (ME!) of Clark Hill Law share real-life stories of how they overcame these obstacles.”
Thank you to Rob Kates of Kates Media: Video Production for the video support and to Martha Lord and Sarah Goldfuss for their assistance throughout.
Yes, Nikki Bagdady Horn and I talk about The Backstreet Boys … and design for marketing communications! To be honest I’m not sure why she puts up with me, nor why Rob Kates hasn’t murdered me yet over my dodgy Internet connection. My mother Susie Sexton is hibernating after the exciting Inauguration events this week AND a marathon viewing of ALL six seasons of Grace & Frankie.
We discuss at length the need for thoughtful consulting when designing materials that have substantive and difficult messaging AND the importance of considering audience needs … always. Nikki is a master of her craft.
Jenn Kennedy commented, “Highly recommend Nikki! Her graphic design skillset is worth the investment, for those in the market for a designer. 👍”
Shout outs to dogs everywhere, creative lighting, Morris Day & The Time, community theatre, Dianne Rychlewski, lawyers, Blaine D. Fowler, Colleen McConnell Fowler, Jennifer Saulten Arapoff, Jenn Kennedy, Todd Forfinski, Joanie Davidson Forfinski, Kerr Russell, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Bryan Bagdady, Lauren Crocker, Clark Hill, Trott Law, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, runners, and more.
It promises to be a fun and free-wheeling conversation focused on the principles of good design, challenges of visual communication in industries that need dense messaging, best practices she would recommend, and maybe even some markers of the good friendship (i.e. shenanigans) shared by Nikki and Roy sprinkled in—fingers crossed we get to hear about the night they saw the Backstreet Boys in concert!
Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by: By Aries and Kates Media.
I am so incredibly proud of my friend Brenda Zawacki Meller, published author! My copy of her book Social Media Pie: How to Enjoy a Bigger Slice of LinkedIn arrived today, beautifully inscribed and in a trademark Meller Marketing pink envelope. Now that is good branding! The book is fantastic, and even if you feel like you know a lot about LinkedIn, there is far more that she can teach you.
As I texted her today, “Brenda, you have surpassed us all in your accomplishments, in your bright light, and in your singular execution of strategy. What you have done in quick fashion in terms of positioning yourself is nothing short of impressive and remarkable. So damn proud of you!” Here are some photos from the many adventures I’ve been privileged to have with Brenda, and her support and encouragement of me and of so many others has meant the world. That is just who she is, and if you don’t know her yet (which would be shocking since she has 52,000 followers and counting on LinkedIn!), you really should!
ABOUT THE BOOK: You’re on LinkedIn, but you’re not sure you’re getting the most out of it. You’re open to learning, but you need some guidance on how to be more effective at your time and efforts on LinkedIn. And, you believe you can have fun while learning. I mean, obviously. Otherwise, what the heck are you doing considering buying a book called, Social Media Pie. That’s crazy talk, right? Or is it BRILLIANT? Probably a bit of both. In Social Media Pie: How to Enjoy a Bigger Slice of LinkedIn, Brenda Meller will share strategies to help you make the most of your LinkedIn presence to help you to reach your business and career goals. In this book, you’ll learn how to:
Adjust your settings to maximize your visibility and reach
Optimize your LinkedIn profile
Create a powerful invitation that’s more likely to be accepted and screen in invitations while creating dialog
Generate greater levels of network engagement
Post (and how often to post) — and what to do NEXT
Build a company page and grow followers (LEADS!)
Rock on LinkedIn in just 15 minutes a day
Through a conversational approach, how-to instructions, and a sprinkling of pie-isms throughout, Brenda will teach you how to increase your slice of the LinkedIn pie. With over 50,000 LinkedIn followers, a LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) of 88, nearly 8,000 profile views in the past 90 days and an awesome LinkedIn network, she shows you how anyone with a strong desire to improve their results on LinkedIn — and an open mind for shining the spotlight on others — can supercharge their LinkedIn presence.
Theatre in pandemic requires ingenuity, creativity, and miles and miles and miles of heart. Oh, and a good internet connection. Michigan’s Open Book Theatre Company is killing it.
Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank has created an outlet for talented artists across the country and particularly here in Michigan to offer what could be best described as bespoke theatrical offerings. Whether it’s a musical staged at a drive-in, behind a picture window or in someone’s driveway or a ten minute, one person play delivered one-on-one (actor to audience), the company has kept theatre alive in these dark times with magnificent results. (I reviewed their production of iPoppyin October.)
Their latest offering is Emily Rosenbaum’s Home Less– as described on the Open Book website: “On her child’s eleventh birthday, a mom reflects on bravery, helping, and the Hogwarts sorting hat.” The conceit of the show is that the mother in question (local legend and, yes, my friend Carrie Jay Sayer) is recording on video a message that her son will read fourteen years hence on his twenty-fifth birthday.
The mother’s message is funny, heartfelt, often poignant, reflective of the unifying isolation of 2020 and the sense of helplessness throughout. The joy of celebrating her bright and adventurous child on his birthday is overshadowed by her guilt that she hasn’t been fully present for him, consumed as she is by the Sisyphean task of her day job: finding warm shelter for the ever growing numbers of homeless people.
The playwright offers in her notes on the piece: “But there’s no such thing as a homeless person. There are people who are experiencing homelessness, just as there are people experiencing food insecurity, domestic violence, and poverty. All of these traumas are human rights violations; none of them are characteristics of people. The systems that perpetuate these violences upon people are complex and deeply rooted. They are, in fact, our economic, educational, governmental, healthcare, and food systems. They serve some people well and are designed to keep others oppressed. … All sorts of circumstances can lead to homelessness, but there is only one remedy. A home.”
Sayer turns in a master class of nuanced understatement, with crisply drawn emotion and empathy, framing herself carefully in the Zoom-based “stage.” She is aided and abetted by Angie Kane’s steady, no frills direction, maintaining focus on words, message, and face. Sayer is a compelling presence, transcending the inherent limits of technology to connect with her singular audience member. We as viewer take the place of the birthday boy, with Sayer delivering her deepest thoughts and fears directly to us. The effect is as haunting as it is relatable. Sayer paces her delivery with varying rhythms and levels, taking us through the highs and lows of a mother grappling with widescreen societal issues and small screen personal ones. This is an exceptional performance, not to be missed. Instructive, cathartic, essential.
Remaining performances are available on January 18th, 21st, and 25th and can be scheduled here. Tickets are $20.
Join me for a panel discussion on January 27, 11:30 AM EST! Register here.
Almost every law firm currently using CRM and other marketing and business development software is looking for ways to increase the ROI on these technology investments. In the pursuit of success with technology, sometimes learning what NOT to do from people who have dealt with challenges can be more instructive than hypothetical discussions about what you could or should do.
Join us January 27 at 11:30 AM EST for part two of this four-part series examining some the top issues that can lead to “Epic CRM Fails.” You will hear from experienced marketing and business development professionals who will share real-life stories of how they overcame these obstacles. You’ll also see never-before-released videos that capture the frustration of failure – and get actionable ideas and best practices to succeed.
Here are just a few of the #EpicCRMFails “potholes” you will learn to avoid on the road to CRM Success:
Problems First, Products Second – Identify your needs and requirements first before attempting to evaluate software.
Let Lawyers Be Lawyers – Perhaps professionals who bill hundreds (or more) of dollars an hour shouldn’t be tasked with data entry. Minimizing their efforts by automating processes can maximize value – and adoption.
No Dog and Pony Shows – Don’t get distracted by shiny bells and whistles. Instead choose the features and functionality that match your needs and requirements.
Defeat the Deluge of Data – Don’t drown in dated data. Instead focus on getting information you need to succeed, keep it clean and turn it into actionable insights.
We hope you’ll join us for this fun and interactive discussion. We will also be accepting “fails” from the audience and awarding prizes for submissions.
Chris Fritsch, CRM Success Consultant and founder of CLIENTSFirst Consulting, has helped hundreds of law firms select and implement the right Client Relationship Management and eMarketing solutions to support their marketing and business development efforts and maximize return on investment. Her team of almost 100 data quality professionals helps firms clean and enhance data and maintain ongoing quality. A recognized authority on marketing and business development technologies, Chris writes and speaks nationally on topics including CRM, eMarketing and data quality. She was named among the top 10 Marketing and Business Development thought leaders in the JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards. She was also inducted as Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management for her consulting contributions to the profession. Chris received her law degree from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, GA.
Christopher Raymond, Intapp
Chris Raymond, Practice Group Leader, Marketing and Business Development at Intapp, has spent nearly 15 years in the legal industry, working with Knowledge Management, Marketing and Business Development teams of AmLaw200 firms across the country. He is Chair of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Northeast MarTech SIG.
Chris joined the Intapp team as part of the OnePlace acquisition and previously worked at LexisNexis.
Roy Sexton, Clark Hill
As Director of Marketing, Roy Sexton helps lead Clark Hill’s marketing, branding and communications efforts. Sexton has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development and strategic planning. He has been heavily involved in the LMA as a regional and international leader and serves on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, Royal Starr Film Festival, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and encoremichigan.com. Sexton earned his Bachelor’s degree from Wabash College, and holds Master’s degrees from The Ohio State University (M.A., Theatre) and the University of Michigan (MBA). He is a published author with two books, “Reel Roy Reviews,” Volumes 1 and 2, taken from his blog of the same name www.reelroyreviews.com.
ICYMI – LMA Midwest Your Honor Awards were hosted today by yours truly. And only about eight technical snafus this time. 🤣 Thank you, LMA Midwest Region, Maureen Fechter Farr, Liz Highley Boehm, Megan McKeon, Laura Toledo, Rob Kates for the opportunity and for putting up with me.
Original event description: “Let’s celebrate! Please join us on Wednesday, January 13 at 11:30am CST/12:30pm EST to recognize the winners of our 2020 LMA Midwest Your Honor Awards. The virtual program will be live streamed courtesy of Kates Media: Video Production. Hosted by Roy Sexton, LMA International Treasurer and Director of Marketing at Clark Hill PLC, the program will feature video clips and visuals from award winners. What better way to start off 2021 than by showcasing the great work of legal marketers in the Midwest!
“THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: A special thanks to Rothschild Marketing for sponsoring the 2020 Your Honor Awards. Rothschild Marketing solves firms’ promo problems – and puts the fun back in swag! The company produces super cool client gifts and unforgettable events for professional services companies. We also thank Rob Kates of Kates Media, producer of high quality, high value, high ROI video content and live steaming programming for the legal industry, for his role in making the live program possible.”
Thank you for helping celebrate my birthday month (December 28 to be exact!) by helping others! Your contributions make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500 – here is the link to the fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD
I’m a proud board member of RMHCAA and have seen firsthand how every little bit makes a huge difference. Thank you SO MUCH for your incredible support! Love you. ❤️
Happy New Year!
Thank you to these wonderful donors! (Apologies to anyone missed – these are screen captures from the record Facebook provides.)
Wonderful miscellany …
Going through the week’s mail, and I spy this gem! Another hidden Wabash College connection or two: the Blue Bell plant manager mentioned here was my grandfather Roy Duncan, and JoEllen Adams, Jim Adams’ daughter, was a close friend of my mother Susie Sexton. JoEllen was a big influence on me choosing Wabash as was Bob. The Lilly Fellowship I received helped too. 😊
Congrats, Ellen and Bob Kellogg, on this well-deserved recognition – and thank you for your support of Wabash! Happy New Year and Wabash Always Fights!
Love this, David Troutman, Scott Feller, and team!
Thank you, Holly Maurer-Klein, SHRM-SCP, for this inclusion in HR/Advantage Advisory LLC, Powered by Clark Hill PLC’s year-end newsletter. Happy New Year, all! #Gratitude is more essential than ever these days.
“Throughout the year, Clark Hill Law PLC (HR/AA is a division of Clark Hill) holds Town Hall Meetings where the firm communicates and celebrates promotions, business wins, and goal achievement. For the year-end meeting in 2020, the firm decided to do something different. As Roy E. Sexton, Director of Marketing, described it recently, ‘our executive team at Clark Hill identified gratitude as the core theme for our year-end Town Hall. We organized a survey to collect examples in our colleagues’ own words and had them submit video shout-outs.’ Employees–the IT team and administrative staff who kept the firm’s wheels turning, fellow attorneys who had been quick to jump in to help when someone was sick or absent–heard heartfelt, personalized, and public descriptions of the impact of the ‘behind the scenes’ work that they had done. As an observer, it was uplifting. As Roy described it, ‘the results were phenomenal. People felt seen and heard and, most importantly, appreciated.’”
There is good in this world. We were blown away, Megan McKeon and Eric Lewandowski, by this incredible Christmas gift. John and I are big Supernatural fans, and Mark Sheppard’s “Crowley” is a particular fave. But even more, what he says here in his message is so heartfelt and kind and inclusive and loving. We were both incredibly moved by his words, and I suspect others will be as well. Megan and Eric – and Mark! – we love you very much. Our hearts are full.
Joe: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
Norma: I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.
From Sunset Boulevard
“If you dream it, you can achieve it.” – Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) in Wonder Woman 1984
“Nothing good is born from lies.” – Diana (Gal Gadot) in Wonder Woman 1984
Sadly, this seems to be the season of watching big ticket blockbusters crammed onto a home screen. Furthermore, this seems to be the season where all of your Facebook friends march like lemmings to tell you what you’re supposed to think of said offerings before you even have had a chance to view them for yourself. Being the good-natured contrarian that my parents raised, I find myself in direct opposition to much of the feedback I’ve observed. To me, The Prom was kind-hearted escapism-with-attitude, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was a stagy self-indulgent slog, Midnight Sky was a resonant Truman Capote-meets-Ray Bradbury short (long) story, and Wonder Woman 1984 was a candy-coated (admittedly overstuffed) confection.
I loved The Prom. I, for one, like unapologetic musicals, and this Ryan Murphy production reads like Hairspray, The Greatest Showman, High School Musical, and Bye Bye Birdie had a socially progressive movie baby. Much needless ado has been made about (formerly?) beloved Carpool Karaokemaven James Corden playing a gay character, claiming his take is offensively stereotypical. Many critics’ descriptions have been as troubling as what they accuse Corden of perpetuating, if you ask me.
To me, it is one of Corden’s better and more thoughtful performances, layering broad comedy in a compelling gauze of pathos, to effectively depict a man struggling to find his path in the margins (in career, physicality, and, yes, sexuality). Corden is part of a free-wheeling quartet of Broadway narcissists (all compensating for respective ghosts of failures past) who descend on a small Indiana town to “rescue” it from its own prejudices after the local PTA shames and embarrasses a young lesbian (luminous newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) in a way that would make even John Travolta’s character in Carriecringe.
Meryl Streep (channeling a caustic yet charming mix of Patti LuPone and Susan Lucci), Nicole Kidman (at her most winsomely fragile), and Andrew Rannells (all bounding and puppyish joy) are Corden’s partners in well-intentioned, occasionally misplaced crime, and they have fabulous chemistry. Kerry Washington is suitably evangelically vampy as the rigid PTA president, and Keegan-Michael Key is a pleasant surprise (both as a singer and actor) as the high school’s show tune loving principal. Tracey Ullmann pops up as Corden’s regretful Midwestern ma, and their reconciliation scene is a lovely little masterclass in heightened understatement.
Oh, right, I did say the movie is kicky fun, but nothing I’ve written here much indicates why. Working from Matthew Sklar’s buoyant Broadway production, Murphy and team overdo everything in all the right ways, juxtaposing all-too-real intolerance and heartache (basically everyone in the film is guilty of uninformed prejudice of one kind or another) with the metaphysical joys of unhinged singing, dancing, glitter, and sequins. All ends (predictably) happily, almost Shakespearean (if Shakespeare listened to Ariana Grande), and I dare you not to sit through the end credits with a stupid, hopeful grin on your face.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is also adapted from the stage, as legendary director George C. Wolfe brings August Wilson’s play to the screen. I suspect my disappointment is more to do with the source material than Wolfe’s sure-handed if claustrophobic direction. To be honest, I wanted more of Viola Davis’ dynamite Ma Rainey and less of … everyone else. Davis has one scene worthy of the Hollywood time capsule, eviscerating the misogynistic and racist capitalist machine that steals artists’ voices (quite literally as Rainey is committing her vocals to vinyl) and tosses people to the curb when they’ve outlived their usefulness.
The film depicts one day in a Chicago recording studio as Rainey fights with, well, anyone who crosses her path in defense of her vision and to retain her integrity in a world that reduces her to a commodity. THAT is the movie I wanted to see, but Wolfe gives preferred time to Rainey’s studio musicians, a group of men whose primary purpose seems to be representing inter-generational animosity among those with a Y-chromosome. Perhaps I’ve just had my fill for one lifetime of toxic male posturing, but I grew weary of their (endless) scenes.
In total, the film feels like it never really escapes the confines of the stage, and I may be among the few viewers underwhelmed by Chadwick Boseman’s performance. His work seems hammy and like he is in search of another movie altogether. I could be wrong, but the overwhelming praise for Boseman here feels like groupthink rhapsodizing given that he is no longer with us. I’m going to hell. See you there. Boseman remains a singular talent, but I don’t think time will be kind to this particular role, Oscar-winning as it likely will be.
Wonder Woman 1984 follows the loping narrative style of all inexplicably beloved films made in, well, 1984, and thereby is a kind of referendum on the cardboard excess and shallow instant gratification of that hollow era, nostalgia for which continues to plague us in insidious ways to this very day.
I found it nicely character driven with a strong cast and with a warm and (mostly) light touch, but plagued by some script/logic problems in its final act. All in all, it met my comics-loving expectations, and I enjoyed what they were doing. Gal Gadot remains a commanding presence in a way we just don’t see in screen stars these days. She’s not an actor per se, but she is a star.
Director Patty Jenkins has great Rube Goldberg-esque fun with one improbable action sequence after another. All were clearly nods to similar films of the 80s featuring, say, Superman or Indiana Jones but enhanced through modern Fast and the Furious-style tech and suspension of disbelief. I’m not looking for pragmatism in a movie like this. Sometimes I just want to be entertained, and WW84 did that for me
Jenkins makes the smart choice of casting talent who will connect the dots in a wafer-thin script. In the film, Kristen Wiig consistently makes smart acting choices as her character progresses from heartbreakingly nerdy sidekick to sullen and insolent supervillain, never losing the heartache of exclusion underneath it all. I thought she was a refreshing and inspired choice to play Barbara Minerva/Cheetah.
Dreamy/witty Chris Pine doesn’t get much dialogue/plot to work with as newly resurrected love interest Steve Trevor, but he shines nonetheless, wringing laughs from fish-out-of-water nuance without ever belaboring the joke.
Pedro Pascal balances Trumpian satire and Babbitt-esque tragedy as a gilded charlatan who believes 80s greed is the key to self-acceptance. He’s grand until the dodgy final act strands him somewhere on manic Gene Wilder-isle, and the film limps to its inevitable world-saving resolution.
I also think if people had watched WW84 on the big screen, they would have walked away with a different vibe. Some may disagree, but there’s a hidden psychological bump to paying for a ticket and investing time away from home (one WANTS the movie to be good) that is erased by the small screen – which has little to do with what is actually being viewed. IMHO.
The global warming parable Midnight Sky (directed by and starring George Clooney), however, benefits from small screen viewing. That said, the film’s outer space, nail biting, race-against-time elements have all been covered (sometimes better) in The Martian, Interstellar, Ad Astra, and George Clooney’s own Gravity. Hell, throw in Event Horizon, Sunshine, and The Black Hole for good measure.
Rather, I enjoyed the film’s quiet moments with Clooney as the sole (maybe?) survivor on an ice-covered Earth, as he fights the elements, time, and his own failing health to deter a deep-space crew from returning to their certain death on an uninhabitable planet. I didn’t give two hoots about the space mission, which included Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, and Tiffany Boone, all doing their level best to make us care. However, I was transfixed by an almost unrecognizable Clooney who checked his golden boy charm at the door and exquisitely projected the exhaustion and anxiety and fear of someone nearing the literal end. So, in other words, how most of us feel in 2020.
If it were up to me, I would edit out all of the space-faring scenes and leave the film’s focus on George Clooney alone in a post-apocalyptic arctic, yielding a transcendent hour-long Twilight Zone episode.
Now, let’s see how I fare in the Twitterverse when I finally turn to watching Disney’s/Pixar’s Soul …
Postscript …what follows is an email sent to my mother Susie Sexton this afternoon about 1960’s classic Cimarron. They don’t make movies like this any more, and that’s a shame.
From IMDB’s synopsis: “The epic saga of a frontier family, Cimarron starts with the Oklahoma Land Rush on 22 April 1889. The Cravet family builds their newspaper Oklahoma Wigwam into a business empire and Yancey Cravet is the adventurer-idealist who, to his wife’s anger, spurns the opportunity to become governor since this means helping to defraud the native Americans of their land and resources.”
I just finished Cimarron and liked it very very much. I do think that Edna Ferber captures perhaps somewhat formulaically but absolutely effectively, the passage and snowballing magnitude of time and life, with a lovely progressive sensibility (pun unintended).
Maria Schell is exquisite. I don’t think the film would’ve been half as good without her in it. I really like Anne Baxter too. Their one scene together is quite understated and powerful.
Glenn Ford is of course great too, but Maria Schell really got to me. She acts in a style ahead of its time. It’s a beautiful film, but at least in the first ten minutes I kept expecting them to burst into song. When it really digs into their struggle and unpredictable relationship, it’s very powerful. The supporting cast was of course great since all of those people had been in one million films already.
Thanks for recommending this! Love you!
My family loves movies. We always have. It is our cultural shorthand, and every holiday – until this one – has been spent in communion over what movies we saw, how they made us think and feel, and what these films might say about our culture and its advancement. That is in short why I write this blog. I can’t imagine watching a movie without having the opportunity to share how it speaks to my heart and mind.
Thank you for reading these thoughts of mine for nearly ten years (!), inspired as they are by a lifetime of loving movies.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to support the Texas lawsuit to overturn votes from the November 2020 election in the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to begin the erosion of our democracy.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to destroy the sanctity of our right to vote.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose political party over country.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to end the dignity of our system of self-government.
Our congressman, Jim Banks, cynically assumes that by 2022 we will have forgotten.
Don Sexton, Columbia City
I am not one you’d call particularly religious by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always loved the #LordsPrayer, particularly #BarbraStreisand’s version from her iconic (first) #Christmas album. Make your own jokes! I love the music, her phrasing, and the timely/timeless message of the importance of kindness and forgiveness and generosity and grace – important to us all, regardless of faith. Hopefully, my version here does it some justice.
For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD
I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the $3000 mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you! #KeepingFamiliesClose