Emma (2020): Such News! This Movie’s Solid!

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“Emma” is directed by Autumn de Wilde and this is her feature-length debut. This film stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Thoroughbreds), Johnny Flynn (Song One, Beast), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, Florence Foster Jenkins), Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Only Living Boy in New York), Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac, High Life), Miranda Hart (Spy, Miranda), and Bill Nighy (Norm of the North, Underworld). This film is based on a Jane Austen novel of the same name and follows its titular character as a selfish woman living in 1800s England. Throughout said time, she is revealed to be meddling in the love lives of the people she happens to know.

When I created Scene Before, my original intention for the blog was to give my honest thoughts on various matters. And to be completely truthful, this movie is not my cup of tea. In fact, the main reason why I went to see it is because there was a free screening at a local indie theater where Anya Taylor-Joy and director Autumn de Wilde happened to be appearing. I figured it would make for a fun night out. But when it comes to original material this movie is based on, I was never previously invested. In fact, I have a feeling this is going to piss off some bibliophiles reading this, Jane Austen wrote the book that I had the most miserable experience reading in high school, specifically “Pride and Prejudice.” I never found it that interesting, entertaining, or compelling. It was the complete opposite of a page-turner, but I was forced to read it, so I had no choice but move along. When it comes to “Emma,” I have never picked the book up. However, I was somewhat interested in this movie. In fact, if anything, this trailer right here PUMPED. ME. UP! Watch this trailer!

 

The music! The cuts! The fast-pace of it all! Whoever edited this deserves some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to get through this dire time!

However, that’s just a trailer. How was the movie itself? Pretty decent, actually. While “Emma” is undoubtedly nowhere near my cup of tea as far as stories go, I found myself chuckling, smiling, and overall having a fun time watching this movie. And a lot of it may have to do with the attention to detail of everything in it. The production design could eventually go down as some of my favorite of the year. The colors are vibrant and match the charm of this movie’s specific time frame. The performances, across the board, are well executed. The ensemble of “Emma” is well put-together. If this were a silent film, I don’t think I’d be able to remove my eyes away from the screen just from how hypnotizing everything feels. It’s easy to tell that Autumn de Wilde brought her vision to life, or depending on who you ask, Jane Austen’s vision to life. In fact, before she took on “Emma” she dived deep into photography, which may partially signify how a lot of the movie’s individual frames feel like a painting or something you’d find hanging in an art gallery. The cinematography in the film at various points is extremely pretty. I am not lying. As for costume design, that is another highlight. Granted, when it comes to movies that take place in a period or setting like this, it is not that surprising that costume design is a key factor into what could make the movie at least partially work.

This is not the first “Emma” adaptation brought to the screen, but given how I have not seen the other adaptations of this kind, I don’t really have much to compare it to. But I feel that if I were to read the original novel of “Emma,” I would at least be somewhat satisfied by the writing style of this adaptation, given how it is true to the period, and the vibe of the film has a rather witty feel to it. Jane Austen is an author who seems to bring an individual feel to her stories, and that seems to be translated well here. Granted, when I read “Pride and Prejudice,” the writing style made it one of the most infuriating experiences of my time on this planet. But a movie like this, brings life to said writing style and evokes a sense of imagination.

Fun fact about the Emma character, when she was being portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress thought she kind of came off as an unlikable being. Granted, that is kind of the point. And knowing what the movie is about and what it exactly contains, I can understand why. But at the same time, Emma is a character who I consider to admirable despite how selfish or manipulative she happens to be. Part of it may go towards the way the movie presents her and how I cannot imagine anyone else in Emma’s shoes except Anya Taylor-Joy. The casting for Emma herself was very well done given how there happens to be some sort of individualistic flair attached to said character.

As for problems, while this film is well-paced, it still has one or two moments where it is kind of a drag compared to others. Regarding the movie itself, it is somewhat forgettable. I may be cheating with this given how I am reviewing this almost a full month after seeing it in the theater, but this is a story that I do not think I’ll want to tune into again while it is still fresh in my memory. Granted, Comcast-owned studios, including Focus Features, the distributor of “Emma,” just so happen to be putting their movies that were supposed to be in theaters onto VOD, so I could watch it again at home if I really wanted to, but “Emma” is not a movie that I felt an instant connection to. I just thought to myself, “Eh, that was a fun couple of hours.” Maybe the novel is better. Because, you know, apparently every book is SUPPOSED to be better than the movie. The “Emma” movie is witty, charming, and marvelous to gaze upon, but it’s missing something. It has the vision, it has the individualistic style, but it doesn’t have the oomph factor I want in movies nowadays.

In the end, I found myself rather satisfied with “Emma.” I don’t think this satisfaction will ever encourage me to read the book, but at the same time, the experience I had while watching the movie in a pretty full theater could have been a contributing factor to making it feel somewhat communal. By the way, remember when we went to movie theaters? It was a long time ago! “Emma” is not my cup of tea, and I think this review kind of shows it. However, I will not deny that I indeed had a good time. I’m going to give “Emma” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let you all know that my next review is going to be for Pixar’s new movie “Onward.” By the way, if you want to watch the movie before I review it, it is coming to digital tonight due to all the theaters shutting down. So if you want to rent it and read my review if you want to see where we stand in terms of our thoughts on the film, feel free to chill out on your couch, go to a preferred digital service whether it be Prime Video, Fandango Now, Google Play, or Vudu, and you’ll have access for the movie, that way you can watch it and determine your thoughts on it before reading my review. That is unless I somehow list my thoughts for “Onward” before the movie drops everywhere, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can tuned for more great content! Also, since you clearly have all the time in the world, be sure to check out the Scene Before Facebook page to get the latest updates of the goings on for the Movie Reviewing Moron. Hey, that rhymes! I want to know, did you see “Emma?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see any of the other adaptations of “Emma?” What are your thoughts on those? Did you read the book? Give me your thoughts on that! Leave your thoughts and opinions down below, and stay safe everyone! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

How Scene Before Will Seemingly Adapt to Coronavirus Changes…

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! This is… Abnormal to say the least. Like, I never thought being an introvert would become as commonplace as it has today. I have never felt more numb than I do right now. Basically, the whole purpose behind Scene Before, which is to review the newest films for YOU, my viewers, has been diminished because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, or at least I think that will be the case. After all, I live in Massachusetts and this just came in earlier this week.

“Gatherings of over 25 people will be prohibited, including all community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more people in a single room or a single space at the same time. This includes venues like fitness centers, private clubs and theaters.”

Now does this mean I can no longer go to the movie theater in my state? That is most likely. After all, I never recall seeing many auditoriums that can hold less than 25 people. I recall certain popular chains stating they will permit 250 people per auditorium or a 50% reduction per auditorium, but I think that is going to be voided now. I mean, if theaters stay open, I’ll consider going, but I also don’t want to become the “crazy movie freak of Massachusetts.” In fact, a lot of theaters around the country are already closed, because as I write this, Regal Entertainment Group, one of the largest North American chains, has shut down until further notice. In addition to that, AMC has done the same. So basically, the two big movie theater chains in my country are now avoiding service to moviegoing customers. Showcase Cinemas, another popular chain in the northeast shut down entirely. Nearby theaters catering to smaller and indie films like the Coolidge Corner Theatre and CinemaSalem have shut their doors until specific dates in April. Los Angeles has been ordered to shut down all of their theaters. LOS ANGELES! THE MOVIE CAPITAL OF THE UNIVERSE! The same goes with New York! Worst. Thing. Ever.

Speaking of tragic situations, I almost wonder if next year will have an Oscars ceremony. In fact, one of the major rules of the Academy Awards is that the movies participating for the award must have a 7 day theatrical release in Los Angeles. If they want this ceremony to fall through, they’ve GOT to make an exception for this year. Some theaters are still open, yes, but we are seeing a shift, at least for now, in increased home viewing. Basically, the whole world is going to continue watching Netflix and we all won’t be able to chill BECAUSE THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST! I can’t chill! I can’t calm down! Who is writing our lives and why aren’t they fired?! Is it Stephen King? R.L. Stine? John Carpenter? Whoever the hell is writing this needs to be terminated immediately! Allow me to take their place and allow the entire universe to live happily ever after! Sometimes the predictable and happy ending is the best one!

I will say though, this does not mean I’ll STOP reviewing new releases. Because for all I know, there could be a Blu-ray, DVD, or digital release coming up for a movie previously shown in theaters that I missed. There’s not much from 2020 that is coming out that I have not seen or am interested in seeing, but one movie I missed, “Underwater,” is scheduled to release on DVD April 14th. I could probably go get it in person. After all, places like Target and Walmart are still likely to be open during these times (although worst case scenario I could buy it online), maybe I could buy it in a store if I feel the urge to.

Plus, one of the saving graces early on in this pandemic is Comcast, which I am utterly amazed by. A few years ago, I was talking s*it about their cable service. Having switched to Verizon, I felt instant relief. But recently, Comcast announced their commitment to providing free Internet to low-income customers for the next 30 days. I think that is a class act and a smart idea for these dark times. And given how people are less likely to head to the movie theater, Comcast distributors like Universal Pictures and Focus Features will be putting movies that are already out like “Emma” and “The Hunt” on VOD services as soon as possible for home viewers to enjoy without having to leave their couch. While this does discard the 90 day agreement where a cinema holds a movie for a period of time before it is officially allowed elsewhere, I think it is a smart decision. I don’t think it should be done for all movies, because there are a number of movies coming out that are absolutely enhanced through a communal experience that can be witnessed at a theater. While I am disappointed that “No Time to Die” got delayed, I am glad it is being shelved to November, when the world can HOPEFULLY unite as one community again. I was looking forward to “F9,” the upcoming “Fast & Furious” installment, but given the ongoing fears, it would make this movie lose a lot of its audience, thus losing its community. Also, when it comes to John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” that was a movie that I wanted to see in a theater because the first one was easily one of the most unique experiences I have had while being surrounded by a group of people. I guess with all these delays, the theater is going to become “a quiet place.” Meanwhile, “Frozen 2” is getting an early release on Disney+, so if you have young girls, your place is going to become “the loud house.”

I think that some of these actions studios are taking are not only necessary, but simultaneously fulfilling, and some of them could help me, a guy who barely makes plans to leave his house, in the long run. Granted, I do hope this does not shatter the meaning of a communal experience at the movie theater, but I think I would be better off sharing thoughts related to such a topic another time. By the way, this suggests an idea I have in this case. Maybe I can fit in a series dedicated to the coronavirus, how it could *theoretically* impact the film industry, and maybe how it *is* impacting the film industry.

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But if you are loyal to this blog, you may be wondering if I have a concrete plan regarding the future of Scene Before and Flicknerd.com. The answer, yes and no. I have IDEAS, but there is no guarantee as to the absolute likelihood of every single part of my plan falling into place. But this is like how things have always been. I can plan ANYTHING on what my blog is going to entail, what posts I have coming soon, doesn’t make it a guarantee. The only guarantees I can make going forward is that I PLAN to continue making at least one post a week, hopefully within a cycle of every seven days and that I will have at least FOUR reviews coming within the next month or so. I still need to review “Emma,” “Onward,” “The Way Back,” and “Bloodshot.” These four movies will be reviewed at some point, and should things go according to plan, I will be reviewing each of these movies in the order of which I mentioned their names.

Now that I have mentioned that, I will also point out that I might plan on some movies that I haven’t given myself the chance to talk about. Now that a lot of big movies are getting pushed back, this prevents certain event-like experiences from happening. Maybe this period of nothingness will allow me to talk about films I don’t always get a chance to dive deep into into. I always wanted to do a four part “Revenge of the Nerds” review series, where I would talk about each of the films, this even includes the two that were made for television, in depth. Without talking much about the film critically, I have somewhat of a personal connection with the first “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, so reviewing it kind of feels somewhat overdue. If I had other series’ I could accomplish, I have all the “Underworld” installments, and I can review all the ones that I have not touched upon. I want to talk about “Star Wars” episodes I-VII, but at the same time, I want to save that for a special occasion. I’m putting that on the backburner for now. Maybe I could do a Pixar series since I have a number of those movies. The same goes with DreamWorks Animations. I also have a 4K boxset of the “Matrix” trilogy in my room sitting around. Part of me wants to unwrap it to see the films in 4K glory, and ultimately review them. Speaking of Keanu Reeves, while I did already review the second and third “John Wick” movies, I still need to talk about the first one. Maybe I could touch upon that! I also maybe could do films that are lacking in a franchise, allowing for more refreshing content that could stand on its own. It can either be a good reminder of standalone films that have come out over the years, maybe a PSA to those who have overlooked a particular title, or some other reason. For all I know I could be reviewing a movie that is beyond terrible and should never be watched for any reason. One other idea I had was to talk about some older movies. Thus far, the oldest film I have talked about in terms of reviews happens to be “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Maybe I could talk about some films older than that, maybe from the 1950s, 1940s, or even 1930s.

Speaking of reviews, one of the reviews I have waited LITERALLY FOREVER to put out is for STX’s “My Spy.” I cannot say anything about it, but what I can say about it is that it is going to have a difficult time getting into the public eye, as if it hasn’t had a hard time already. It already released in Australia in January, and in Britain just this past weekend. “My Spy” was supposed come out in August of last year, only to be delayed to the most recent weekend of this year. As we approached the release date of the movie, it just so happens that it managed to get pushed back AGAIN to April! Why? I doubt it has to with corona, and maybe it had more to do to with having less competition during the month. After all, now that “No Time to Die,” the latest Bond film has been pushed back to November, it opens up the opportunity for another spy film to swoop in its place. But I gotta be honest, I am not going to be shocked if the film gets pushed back again. However, I will also be disappointed. After all, I SAW THE FILM IN JANUARY AND I NEED SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT! I have not finished a review for “My Spy,” but I still have my points that I want to talk about. We’ll have to see what happens to this movie, but my gosh! How is STX still holding onto this thing? I’m kind of surprised they haven’t dumped it out of their schedule entirely and sold the rights to Netflix!

I want to say that this ongoing trend could lead me to providing you all with more trailer reviews, because I could easily watch them on a device I have access to. Unfortunately, given the way things are going, it seems I won’t even get to watch a trailer for anything. After all, if the movie industry itself is in a major shutdown, there will barely be any trailers to support those that are still coming out.

I could dive into the realm of countdowns. One of the things I have honestly considered doing at this time is adding more installments to the series “Top Movies of the 2010s.” I say that because I labeled it as a countdown event. If I wanted it to be event-like, why not have it go on for some time? I don’t really have many ideas for original countdowns at this point. Although I have previously been thinking, and I might want to do a countdown on my favorite “Star Wars” battles, specifically ones fought with lightsabers. I almost did it around the release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” but that idea failed to see the light of day.

I was not going to originally reference this, but a friend of mine suggested that I should start reviewing TV shows from streaming services. First off, I am incredibly thankful for the idea. This gives me a TON of new material to work with. But that also brings in a problem. I don’t focus on TV in general. Yes, there has been the rare instance where I would do a random post on a TV show, but they would highlight something that stands out to me, or maybe it intertwines into movies. I appreciate the idea, but for now, Scene Before is not going to focus on television. Who knows? Maybe if this gets worse, maybe the government will insert a dome over the area most affected by the virus, isolating them from everyone else, and eventually attempt to blow the area up. Spoiler alert for those of you who have not seen “The Simpsons Movie.”

Now, one thing I should point out is that last month was the release of the 2nd Annual Jackoff Awards. Guess what? Even before the 2nd iteration of my personal film awards show, I started planning the 3rd. But with this new situation that could last forever, I am beginning to wonder if there will be a third. Because to do an award show like this, I need to see tons of movies, that way there is a variety of potential nominees. If I just have random movies that came out from January to March, it might not cut it. At this point, Best Picture would probably go to something like “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” I want to be optimistic and say that I can probably start going to the theater again by May, June, July, but for all I know, this highly contagious disease could prosper and linger into our lives during 2021. If this affects me as a moviegoer, there’s a solid chance that I might have to cancel The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards. Keep in mind that The Jackoffs are supposed to be a celebration of a year in film, and if I cannot celebrate a year, there is no point in doing it. And no, if 2021 turns around and I do The Jackoffs for that year in 2022, I ain’t including 2020’s films in it. It has to be a FULL year from January to December, NO EXCEPTIONS. I will say though that for maybe this one year, I might bend the rules to allow the presence of movies that were SUPPOSED to come out in theaters that were ultimately put out for home viewing because of COVID-19, but anything is possible when the world is hunting for hand sanitizer.

But in all seriousness, this is an ever-changing time. Not just for me. I am willing to experience it and live through it, even if that means shattering my brain wide open. I just tweeted this the other day, because the truth is, I love being by myself. Alone time is one of the things I value most. I rarely see friends, I don’t always make plans with others, I don’t socialize that often. But here’s what I said the other day. By the way, follow me on Twitter at @JackDrees if you haven’t done so already!

This really feels weird! Until COVID-19 hit, I felt like “that guy” who always wanted to be alone. And now the government, my country, and those around me, are forcing everyone to be alone. This is essentially a movie, I really hope they roll the f*cking credits soon, and I won’t be sticking around for any additional scenes! I’m done! This is anger! This is rage! THIS IS WHAT THE INTERNET IS ALL ABOUT!

Thanks for reading this post! These are simply ideas that I have going forward. I will continue to create material while I still have the opportunity, not to mention, the sanity. Nevertheless, here’s hoping your day is as cleansing as hand soap and nowhere near as crappy as toilet paper! My next post is hopefully going to be for my long overdue review of “Emma” directed by Autumn de Wilde. I will have my review up for that, along with other films that I managed to see while society was still doing things. Remember doing things? What time that was to be alive! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and DON’T WORRY! It’s free! I know it’s a dire time, but if you want some free material to gloss over whenever you have spare time, which is probably all the time now, give this blog a follow! Also, speaking of stalking the Scene Before blog, go over to Facebook and like the official Scene Before page! I want to know, what are some suggestions for material that you have for me as we elbow bump our way through the coronavirus? Or, what is a movie you recommend for isolation, or hanging away from everybody else? Leave your comments below, this can be great conversation starter for everybody tuning in! Who knows how long this is gonna go on? But holy crap, I need my head to stop spinning NOW. Scene Before is, and always will be, your click to the flicks, and your destination of all your movie needs during this apocalypse! Why couldn’t it have been zombies? Why this?!

Dark Waters (2019): WARNING: This Movie May Contain Man-Made Chemicals That Become Attached To You

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“Dark Waters” is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) and stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, The Avengers), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Intern), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River), Bill Camp (Molly’s Game, Vice), Victor Garber (The Orville, The Flash), Mare Winningham (Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Waves), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Equalizer). This film is based on true events, it’s inspired by particular news articles, most notably Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine piece, “The Man Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and is about a case involving the chemical company DuPont, who has been called out in the past for putting various dangerous man-made chemicals into products. Due to this, many deaths have occurred, some people have facial deformities, this movie basically focuses on some negative effects of the corporation. The movie dives deep towards the perspective of Robert Bilott, an attorney investigating the situation and its effects.

We are nearing the end of November, and with that in mind, it is perhaps without question that we as a moviegoing audience are being blessed with one god-like piece of material after another. Earlier this month I saw “Honey Boy,” an Amazon Original that made me argue whether or not Shia LeBeouf writes better than he acts. I soon saw “Ford v. Ferrari” which is one of the best racing movies I have ever seen. And the day before I saw this current movie that I’m talking about, I went to the cinema to go watch “Knives Out,” which is just pure fun. Enough said. It’s one of those movies that feels incredibly wild and it is all the better for it. Although unlike “Knives Out,” which I have been hearing about since some of the cast happened to be announced, I do not recall hearing much at all about “Dark Waters.” It’s one of those movies that just sneaked up on me. But I had a chance to go to a free screening on the day it opened in Boston, so I took advantage of that.

“Dark Waters,” on the surface, had a number of things going for it. It has a cool cast. Mark Ruffalo is pretty big right now, Anne Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses working today, and I should not go without mentioning Tim Robbins, who I did not know was in this movie until after I saw it, but he was in perhaps in 1994’s best film, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Let me just say something, this movie is no “Shawshank.” Not even close. I enjoyed it, but it’s no “Shawshank.” Part of why I feel this way is because of how much I tried to recall upon trying to write about this movie. Part of me almost forgot about a core element about the film and its screenplay in particular, which stood out to me when I saw it, but somehow it just slipped out of my mind almost as if this were a disposable comedy or something that I’ll watch once until I move onto the next thing.

But with that in mind, I still enjoyed what was in front of me. The story itself is one of those that I thought worked well for the big screen, even if it did take more than few moments to get me fully onboard. I think the performances given by multiple actors, leading and supporting, make this film watchable. I’d also say that it is an appropriate film for this time considering how it partially involves how big corporations are harming their consumers, plus to add onto that, the main message is about the environment and how we need to be aware of what we’re doing regarding it. Not only that, but we, the consumers, are not the only ones to blame for what’s being done. Will this film be forgotten over time? Hard to tell. It’s not the most popular film out right now, but at the moment, if a good number of people see it, it may reflect the current state of our environment to them.

I sort of mentioned this already, but the actors here do pretty well, and I think the two leads in particular, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, have terrific chemistry and are extremely suitable for their roles. Mark Ruffalo plays an environmental lawyer who is trying to hold DuPont accountable and the movie managed to put me on his side, I also really enjoyed the moments where he was interacting with a farmer. That may have been one of the more hypnotizing scenes of the whole film.

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But if you ask me, the best performance in the film probably comes from Anne Hathaway, and this delights me to no end. Not just because I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, not just because she was in a few of my favorite movies ever, but also because she was just in a TERRIBLE movie this year called “Serenity,” which was a step down for her, and for a few others who were involved with that project as well. Now, Hathaway has bounced back with what I think may be one of my personal favorite performances from her. She plays the wife of the main character, and there are various scenes where she’s observing her husband doing things that might as well make him look bats*it crazy. Just about every execution of a line given by her was perfect.

I gotta say though, this movie has problems. It has been almost two weeks since I saw this in the theater, but even with that, this movie is a tad forgettable. I remember various portions of it, but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d salute for the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but this movie feels like a restaurant located in my town that I have only gone to once, liked, but because of competition, specifically in said town, there is a good chance I will not be returning anytime soon. The pacing was alright, but there is minor room for improvement. But I think the biggest flaw this movie has that I can think of is the ending. I say that because without going into spoiler territory, it feels incredibly abrupt. It’s not like the movie ends and it doesn’t make sense, but it ends leaving this weird taste in my mouth. I dunno… This is one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year. When I saw it, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at the same time, I am having this weird spiral of memory loss when I try to think about it. For the record, I am twenty years old, not eighty. I think my memory itself is in rather good standing.

In the end, I do think “Dark Waters” is a really interesting, not to mention informative story. This movie I believe exists more to inform than to entertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know if they have ever done a documentary on this, but if not, I guess this is about the closest we’ll get to having a documentary. Hang on a sec… *Switches tab* WAIT! Just Googled it, there is a documentary. I take that statement back! I think the movie is well acted, well shot, the color grading kind of works for the film at hand, but I don’t think it’ll win best picture. Although this movie is from Participant, who made last year’s Best Picture, “Green Book,” so you never know. I should point out, it barely has a release whatsoever, so we’ll have to see how far this movie can expand before we make any further conclusions about box office, popularity, or overall potential to be recognized this award season. Until then, I’m going to give “Dark Waters” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood,” a movie which at one point, may have been one of my most anticipated of 2019. Will it live up to the hype? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the site, and also check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dark Waters?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Anne Hathaway performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018): A Reminder of an Unfulfilled Childhood *SPOILERS*

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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, The Music of Strangers) and stars Joanne Rogers, Betty Aberlin, McColm Cephas Jr., Fran├žois Scarborough Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma, Kailyn Davis, Joe Negri, David Newell and is a look behind the curtain of the life of Fred Rogers. If you don’t know that name, then you aren’t familiarized with children’s television programming from the 1960s or 1970s.

Going into “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” it was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I don’t traditionally review documentaries, I don’t usually watch documentaries, but this one, regardless of my intentions to review it, felt special on paper. I never had a childhood, for what I remember, where I was exposed to Mr. Rogers on television. To my knowledge, not many people today have that either. With today’s kids it’s mostly “Paw Patrol” or other things that happen to be similar to that. I remember my grandmother singing the theme to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” as she was watching over me from time to time however. But watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” taught me the absolute specialty of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which not only made me realize how great the documentary was, which by the way, it is, GO SEE IT NOW, but made me think that my childhood may have been… really s*itty.

Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was awesome. I went on several getaways, I went to amusement parks, I went to all sorts of malls, I enjoyed time with friends, but watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” would have probably taught me something I needed to know more. To be specific, the need to be nice to others. I was a stupid kid in elementary school (for the most part), I did a lot of things I really shouldn’t have done, and ultimately regret. Part of it almost makes me hate my life. While the movie tries to set a counterargument that maybe Fred Rogers made some kids feel more entitled than they need to be, I think that I would have had a better childhood if that were in my life, maybe even a better life in general. Let me tell you what I watched in my childhood. I watched “Power Rangers,” a flashy live-action hyper-mania f*ckstravaganza with explosions and people screaming for the sake of making noise. I watched all sorts of things that are based on “Hot Wheels” cars, which had tons of replay value, but I was more into racing than I was into inserting any kind of real world events into my head. I watched the newer seasons of “Spongebob Squarepants.” WHAT WAS I THINKING?! Granted in my preschool years, I watched some decent content regarding that age group, such as “Blue’s Clues” or “Dora the Explorer,” but as far as I recall, there was probably NOTHING like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It takes a concept that may sound corny, but kind of works! You have this guy who is on a low-budget set, with low-budget props, and has a show shot on low-budget film equipment (at least for some time), and lets people, although mainly children, know they are special the way they are. What really sets Mr. Rogers apart from other people in children’s television is his raw charm. You know how in religion there is one figure that everyone is guided to be? In this case, Mr. Rogers basically combines religion with the real world. I’m not gonna give my religious beliefs away, because that’s not exactly what I intended to do here on WordPress or Scene Before, but let’s just say, if I were a hardcore Christian and saw this movie having no idea who Mr. Rogers was, I’d say he’s quite possibly the closest person to qualify as the second-coming of Jesus.

In fact, to some people’s minds, they’d disagree, because Rogers was essentially someone who opened up his heart and loved everyone. Straight. Gay. Bi. White. Black. Young. Old. Boy. Girl. You name it. He was someone that just wanted to spread positivity, happiness, anything that associates with being a joyous person. This movie goes into detail about how some people were against Mr. Rogers for telling children they were special, saying that it either goes against traditional values or makes them bratty. Honestly, if I were a kid, being told that I’m special or a joy to have in this world would be amazing. Being told I’m a failure would only lower my confidence, not to mention my will to live. Handing down the necessary joy of life, no matter if it’s being given to a child who can take care of themselves or somebody else, is a pretty important task for parents or guardians to take on. Mr. Rogers almost comes off as if he is the ultimate parent. He’s very calm, he’s inviting, and he wants to hear what children have to say. In fact, a good number of the stories we consume nowadays happen to be stories of good vs. evil. I’m not saying these people are evil or anything, but to say that someone can’t be anything is wrong and diminishing on so many levels. Now if your kid tells you they want to be the world’s nastiest destroyer then that’s a different story, but if your kid wants to be something that can shed something positive, light, or joy in the world, you might as well help in getting them to their goal by supporting them, listening to them, and guiding them.

When it comes to the overall goal of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” it tries to make Mr. Rogers look like the definition of a role model and a hint of guidance, and I’d say the movie did its job. Along the way, the movie tells the highlights of Rogers’ life, this includes “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (of course), his sitcom “Old Friends… New Friends,” and how he broke ground in aspects regarding children’s television and the way we look at others. Mr. Rogers was a lifelong Republican, not to mention an ordained minister for a church. This guy was doing television in the 1960s and the 1970s, and for a guy to be doing something such as telling people it’s OK gay to be gay, not to mention sharing that statement to an audience alongside someone who actually is gay, is ballsy given both his background and the time which he lived. But he did it, and I appreciate the dude for it.

Speaking of ballsy, as the documentary went on, I discovered that Rogers really pushed the limits on children’s television without exactly coming off as dark. He talked to children about death! He talked about divorce! He’s basically a televised therapist that everybody didn’t need to travel outside their house every few months to see. I have divorced parents, and when they were separated, I went to a therapist to talk about my life during that sort of time, and I didn’t really feel so good. It’s hard to talk about, no matter who you are. But no matter the difficulty, Mr. Rogers was able to talk about it!

One of the best quotes I’ve heard in the movie, is something I can’t say word for word only because I’m not sure how it goes piece by piece, but it goes something like this:

“I believe silence is one of the greatest gifts we have.” -Fred Rogers

I can associate with that quote with just about any part of my life. I have sensitive ears, so therefore, I’m not fond of loud noises. I enjoy my alone time, I’m not saying having friends sucks, but I really admire alone time. I even grew to know that just because a movie is big and loud, doesn’t make it good. It can be good from being big and loud. A large number of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example are explosive and can still maintain a feel of intelligence (for the most part), but some movies like those in the Michael Bay “Transformers” franchise can sometimes make you feel stupid because it’s nothing but noise. Silence can allow you to concentrate, dissect, and sometimes keep an audience in suspense. What Mr. Rogers was able to do with a show that the more I think about it, can associate with something such as peace and quiet, makes him all the more admirable.

Also, considering how nice and joyous Mr. Rogers presented himself both on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and in real life, I always think to myself, there’s nobody like him. Although one comment from an interviewee truly caught my attention, and it’s because he said the opposite of what I said. And maybe he’s right. This may not count for everyone, but for a number of people, we are all trying to be nice, a role model, and have a positive attitude. Rogers embodies all of those things. There aren’t really many people that *I* can think of that rank alongside Rogers in that sort of way. The closest I can think of are a few people such as Bill Nye, Curtis Armstrong (I’m biased here), and Robert Carradine (again, I’m biased). This documentary taught me that we need more people like Mr. Rogers. Maybe someone watching this will say that they want to be more like him, maybe they’ll say they had a life more like his, and if they’re like me, they’ll say they want to have a childhood with Mr. Rogers. As someone who thought the live-action “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie was entertaining as a kid, I want the kid version of me to have Mr. Rogers to in their life to make them realize how wrong I was for thinking such a thing.

In the end, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is one of the most amazing pieces of art I’ve witnessed not only this year, but this entire decade. It might even be in the conversation of possibly being my favorite documentary ever. I haven’t seen too many of them, I’ve seen a good number, but not a lot of them were epic. I must say, this was not epic. This was beyond words one could ever think of. I know that as a guy it makes people like me look like a wuss to cry at the movies, but from scene one, my eyes were watering. And I held all my tears in, but if I were Sadness from Pixar’s “Inside Out,” this would have been the most defining experience of my entire life. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is not just a reminder of the awesome person that Mr. Rogers is, it’s a reminder to be a decent human being, not to mention a reminder to be the best person you can be. I’m gonna give “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” a 10/10. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m gonna have a couple more reviews coming up, such as my thoughts on “Uncle Drew,” and also my thoughts on “A Wrinkle In Time.” Be sure to stay tuned for those articles and more great content! I want to know, did you see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor??” What did you think about it? Or, did you grow up knowing the name Mr. Rogers? If so, can you tell me a bit about that? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!