This week SAR readers photos selection

Vincent Lim‎ Torpedo dive by Grey Headed Fish Eagle. 1/3200, f6.3, ISO 1600 Sony a9 with 200-600mm lens. #sonyalphagallery 1) You can submit one single picture per week only. 2) To submit your picture for the weekly readers roundup post…

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SXSW 2020 conference in Austin canceled due to concerns over coronavirus

SXSW conference canceled due to concerns over coronavirus

Another event is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak: the SXSW annual tech, film and music conference held in Austin, Texas has been canceled.

An essential destination for global professionals across different industries, the South by Southwest, or SXSW conference in Austin Texas dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.

The event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. South by Southwest, the annual tech, film and music conference held in Austin, Texas, was going to take place March 13 – 22.March 6, 2020, but the city of Austin cancelled the event, as Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster in the city an issued an order canceling the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU.

SXSW conference canceled due to concerns over coronavirus

The show must go on

A series of companies, including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, had already cancelled their presence at the event, but as recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and local government officials announced the cancellation at a news conference Friday afternoon discussing the status of the outbreak and events in the city.

The organizers of the festival have said that they honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision and “will faithfully follow the City’s directions.” Despite being “devastated to share this news with you” they note: “we are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.”  This is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place, but as “the show must go on” notion is in the organizers’ DNA, they are working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.

SXSW conference canceled due to concerns over coronavirusA virtual SXSW online

A note published in the SXSW 2020 conference website by organizers states that “we are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.”

The organizers also add that they understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize the conference to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.

As a last note, they write this: “We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

Fashion photographer Lindsay Adler named Rangefinder’s ‘Icon of the Year’

Fashion photographer and Canon Ambassador Lindsay Adler is the first woman to win Rangefinder‘s Icon of the Year Award. The announcement was made during the WPPI 2020 event last week, where Adler was caught off guard thanks to some careful planning by WPPI and Photo Group Content Director Arlene Evans, as well as Adler’s boyfriend and mother.

Rangefinder explains what it means to be named an ‘Icon,’ stating on its website that an Icon is someone who fills many roles; who is ‘super creative and has extraordinary talent’ in addition to serving as a role model, educator and more.

We contacted Adler to talk about her work, the new milestone award and what it means to her. In talking about winning the award, Adler said:

‘Winning Rangefinder’s Icon of the Year in an incredible honor that makes me feel that I am making an impact on my community and its continued success. This award is a beautiful way to show me that my sharing and love for photography and photographers have not gone unnoticed. I am constantly pushing myself to grow, and I hope this journey encourages others to do this same. I’ve been reading Rangefinder and attending WPPI for more than a decade, and this feels like a beautiful culmination… now I just wonder, what’s next! Can’t get much better than this!’

Adler’s photography has been featured in a number of notable publications, including Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle and more, and she has worked with major brands like Microsoft, Grey and Edelman. In addition to her photography work, Adler also teaches at events and through various platforms, including everything from online tutorials to books. She explains:

‘My life is centered around creating and sharing. I create images and share the process. I create in-depth tutorials answering all the questions I once had as I grew my career. I create and I share, and I am so lucky to get endless love back from the community—whether in the form of praise, encouragement, or those simply following my journey.’

Behind-The-Scenes image of Adler (far-right) at work with a model.

Adler’s work is showcased on her website, which features collections of photos like ‘Seeing Red,’ ‘Editorial Beauty,’ ‘Skin‘ and even ‘Cinemagraphs.’ Looking back over her career, Adler says:

‘I am truly the happiest I’ve ever been and am proud to [have] achieved so many of my life’s goals. I know that along the way there have been so many other gracious photographers, educators and industry leaders that have shared their knowledge, given my opportunities, encouraged me and ultimately been so important to my success. Because of this, I realize just how important it is for those with success to share with their community however they can.’

In addition to her website, Adler’s work can be found on her Instagram and her Canon Ambassador page.


Image credits: Photos used with permission from Lindsay Adler

The Things That Kill Themselves

The particularity of the photo industry is its death wish. At its core, everything and everyone in this industry seems hell-bent into destroying itself and, along with it, the whole industry.

Take Photo District News (PDN), for example. Long considered the monthly bible of professional photographers with its tall vertical pages, its authoritarian product reviews, and its industry-leading conference.

Nothing and no one had more influence in the photo world. If it said a lens was good, that lens was used by everyone and their mother. If your name was printed in the magazine, for whatever reason, you were somebody in the photo world. The style of pictures published became the cornerstone of what photography was to be.

PDN is no longer

PDN was like Kodak. A pillar of the photography world. Until it wasn’t. What happened? Well, like Kodak, PDN took a long time to embrace digital. Not just in what it reviewed but on how it operated. The printed edition remained the core product and the website, a sort of bonified blog where freshly out of college proto journalists would write about stuff. It was cute, but certainly not serious.

As years went by and PDN, like Kodak, stubbornly held to the belief that print was not going away, it started losing its audience to independent bloggers who could write faster, better, and with much more SEO efficiency. As a whole new generation of photographers emerged, raised on Instagram feeds and smartphone pixels, they sought their news not in the pages of PDN but the endless scrolls of social media. It is where bloggers captured their attention and PDN lost the battle.

Ignoring changes will not make them go away; it just makes you irrelevant. It’s like having a deathwish.

Photo Agencies Are No Better

Take photo agencies. Initially created to help photographers market their images more effectively, they are now photographers’ worst enemies. Why is that? By submitting themselves to a seemingly endless price cutting war to compete with each other, photo agencies have precipitated the value of photography down a black hole where most of them disappear after signing their bankruptcy papers. A ridiculous self-defeating practice that has seen the rise of publicly traded commodities giants like Shutterstock valued at $1.57 billion while selling photos around $2 apiece.

Remember, there is a photographer behind each photograph, getting about 20% of that $2 and apparently utterly okay with that.

The top 3 leading photo agencies today are not in the business of helping photographers better market themselves but rather in the business of selling the largest volume of images, at whatever cost. Including the complete devaluation of their content. They must be hoping that machines will soon replace humans at creating photos because, at this rate, it is not sustainable. But then, if machines can create photos, who needs photo agencies? A death wish, I tell you.

Chasing that elusive $2.00… Photo by Jamie Street.

Photographers Are No Better

Each one accepting worse and worse terms in order to compete. What they didn’t realize is that they were competing with themselves, slowly eroding the rock they were standing on. Lower prices, more rights granted, something is better than nothing mentality, which led both publishers and photo agencies to take full advantage of them. To the point that most of them are real estate agents today, the only profession that will take anyone at any age, no questions asked. A good time to buy a house.

Camera Manufacturers Are No Better

Each release is a previous equipment killer, making themselves obsolete. For some reason, the top manufacturers of camera equipment, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, took an obscene amount of time to realize what people really liked about taking a photo with their smartphones because they could share them instantly.

The only reason they stopped buying specialized photo gear and used their crappy little phones with a few megapixels and one lousy lens was that they no longer had to wait to download their images on a desktop, resize them, and email them to people who had a hard time opening them.

Sharing is the number one reason we take pictures. So if a tool comes along and makes taking a photo and sharing it easy, it makes sense it would be vastly adopted. Apparently, not for executives in the photo industry. And so, for more than a decade, those same camera manufacturers produced the highest resolution cameras they could in the erroneous belief that here was their competitive advantage. When point and shoots with somewhat instant sharing finally hit the market, the resolution of a smartphone was equal if not better. The success of Instagram should have been a hint to any of those corporate executives.

A Deathwish It Is

We react in shock when we hear that companies we have known for all of our lives go in bankruptcy like ToysRUs or Sears. And while we look for an outside culprit, a reason, time and time again we are brought back to the reality that the only recurring reason is plain mismanagement. The failure to see and embrace change. The same plague has been devastating the photo industry with one slight difference: it seems that the photo industry really doesn’t want to survive.


About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header photo by Ian Espinosa

Shooting Environmental Portraits in Detroit

The City of Detroit has launched a redevelopment plan for the Gratiot/7-Mile community. I’ve been hired by the city and the consulting firm Giffels-Webster as the still-images creative director and photographer.

Our task is to create a series of portraits with two primary goals:

1. Highlight key quality-of-life issues in the community (i.e. public safety, health, mass transit, etc.).

2. Drive community buy-in for the redevelopment plan.

The city identified the Heilmann Recreation Center as a keystone institution in this community. As such, the rec center seemed like a good place to start our portrait project – specifically the rec center’s swimming services.

Swimming pools and swimming instruction is a key to public health. In addition to promoting fitness, they also promote not dying. According to the Centers for Disease Control, inability to swim is a leading risk factor for fatal and non-fatal drowning. This risk factor is higher in urban communities where people either have limited access to pools or flagging interest in learning to swim.

As a person from an urban neighborhood who cannot swim, I felt it important to create images that inspire Gratiot/7-Mile community stakeholders to be nothing like me.

Pre-Production

Here’s where the fun begins. I think of environmental portraits like movie stills. This allows me to indulge my deep-set desire to control everything and everyone I look at. Like a movie director, if you will. As such, my process is very much exactly the same as Steven Spielberg’s. Like, exactly.

Step 1: Identify a location. Step 2: Cast a subject, wardrobe, and props that complement the location and its color palette. With the Heilmann Center identified, one of the biggest pre-production considerations was already accounted for.

Next, finding a subject. My hope was someone with a compelling story and a compelling look (this is, after all, a visual medium). I happened to find just that person in Nicole Valentini. Nicole grew up in the redevelopment area. She also – as evinced by the quote above – had something interesting and beautiful to say about the transformative role learning to swim played in her life.

Done and done.

Now, wardrobe, props, and color palette. Unfortunately, I was not able to scout the location ahead of the shoot. To make sure I was prepared for whatever palette the location presented, I purchased swimsuits, goggles, and swim caps, in a variety of colors. Specifically, swimsuits in pink, white, and yellow; swim caps in red, and blue; and goggles in iridescent blue-green and purple. When I saw the soft blue/white palette of the location, a yellow/red wardrobe with iridescent blue-green goggles felt like the right, complementary choice.

Oh. One thing I knew without ever seeing the location: the water would be blue. To complement this, I purchased a bright red/white floatation device. Since these portraits are about how learning to swim can both literally and figuratively save someone’s life, the floatation devices have both aesthetic and symbolic value.

Capture

I’ve been on a dark kick. My first instinct was to shoot this assignment with low-key lighting. Kill the ambient. Light my subject with a tungsten-gelled strobe, set the white balance to 3400K, and push the shadows with cyan-gelled fill. Luckily, I did not have the time to pull this off (I had two hours to scout and light the location and two hours to shoot). Rather than killing the ambient, it was quicker and easier to work with it. The result was images that are bright, colorful, primary, and triumphant. This worked much better for our story than my go-to Sad Boy Orange/Blue.

This was the first set-up we captured. Learning to swim allows a person to transcend otherwise dire circumstances. Nicole emerging head held high into the light conveys this idea well. This triumphant idea is amplified by placing the camera low so that it is looking up at our subject. The perspective distortion caused by a close-in relatively wide 28mm focal length makes our subject loom large in her environment. Leading lines and color contrast helped draw the viewer to our heroic subject. A behind-the-scenes shot:

Tech specs: Canon EOS R with EF 24-105mm f/4L [ISO 1600, 28mm, f/5.6, 1/30 sec, white balance 4200K]. Orlit 610 TTL camera left into Westcott 7’ reflective umbrella on ETTL 0. Strobe has a 1/2 CTO gel. This gel converts the strobe’s 5600 daylight output to roughly 3800K. The color temperature of the ambient is 4000-4200K give or take. So, the color of my added light more or less matches the color of the ambient light. ETTL allows the camera to figure out the right exposure for the light. This is super useful in situations where you are moving quickly and unable to manual meter light output.

Canon EOS R, EF 24-105mm f/4L [ISO 1600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, WB 4200K]

Well, this portrait just makes me happy. There’s just so much here that speaks to me. Even when we are cautious and measured, life can be upended. Inverted. Leave you disoriented. Despondent. Steady yourself. Face the abyss. Move forward – even if only by one shallow step at a time.

In the last two or three years, I’ve faced adversity beyond anything I ever thought I would. I’ve persevered thanks to the love and support of friends who I consider family. They are the reason I was here on this day and able to make this photograph. I believe the only purpose that exists is the purpose we create for ourselves. I believe our purpose is to do what we can to improve the lives of other human beings. I am honored to be a part of the Gratiot/7-Mile redevelopment project and I hope my contribution in some small measure does just that.

Annnnnnnnnnd, now lighting: Roughly the same set-up as the previous image. The only difference is Nicole is standing along the back edge of the pool (the edge by the sandbag that should have been of the big leg of the keylight’s c-stand, but I goofed). Also, the gridded blue/cyan gelled fired here. That created a beautiful, subtle edge light on the subject’s left side. This perspective was possible because I shot from about 8-feet up on an A-frame ladder. Also note the change in shutter speed from 1/30 to 1/160. This cut the ambient light and deepened the color of that water. This created a deep blue/green canvas for Nicole’s bright yellow swimsuit.

The photo was then rotated and flipped on its horizontal axis – just like life.

Oh, one more thing! The great thing about the 7-foot reflective umbrella is it can be aimed! Originally, it was at about a 45-degree downward angle. Too much light spilled into the pool. This caused Nicole’s reflection to be too faint. So, I feathered the light at about a 20-degree upward angle. This meant the light only hit Nicole and the water stayed dark. Without this lighting disparity, her reflection would not be apparent. I figured this out in the moment and – given my limited experience with pools – I was pretty proud of myself.

Canon EOS R, EF 85mm f/1.8L [ISO 200, 85mm, f/2.0, 1/60 sec, WB 4200K]

The final lighting set-up was fairly simple. One strobe camera left into a 43” shoot-through umbrella with a 1/2 CTO gel. Two strobes with 7-inch reflectors on the shore behind Nicole and on either side with blue/green gels. The surprisingly awesome and relatively cheap Canon 85mm f/1.8 was used for the close-up portraits. I used a super-slow shutter speed to cause motion blur in the parts of the image lit by ambient light while the parts lit by strobe were razor sharp. I did this completely on purpose. This setting was not a happy accident that I would have totally avoided if I wasn’t rushing to wrap the shoot before our deadline. Totally.

Post-Production

Most post-production was done in Lightroom. Here’s my post-post-processing rationale:

The capture.

Painterly images with lots of shadow detail are what speak to me. Here’s how I create that feel. First, move the Exposure slider until everything in the scene looks sufficient bright OR until the hills and peaks touch the right side of the histogram. Next, lower contrast. Third, recover Highlights if the scene has a lot of dynamic range (i.e. backlit, sunset, etc). If not, leave it be. Fourth, raise the Shadows to taste. Fifth, raise the Whites to taste and lower the Blacks a bit. While this sounds like strategy cribbed from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, it’s really just a more controlled way of re-introducing contrast and brightness. I find it makes images pop without looking too contrasty or oversaturated.

Speaking of saturation, lower Vibrance to about -25 or so. Then, raise the Saturation to 20. OR, do the reverse. It really depends on the image, your tastes, and your camera’s capture settings (I prefer to turn down saturation about two notches in-camera). Next, go under Color Mixer and use the eyedropper tool to select specific colors you would like to emphasize or subdue. Finally, boost the Clarity a bit and decrease texture. I find this makes edges feel more defined without introducing halo artifacts. That’s the Lightroom workflow for these images.

After Lightroom.

Work in Photoshop was minimal. Mostly just using the Heal tool to get rid of spots, blemishes, and other distracting elements (both on the subject and in the scene), and some selective dodge and burning. Flatten PSD, convert to sRBG, resize to 3840px (1200px for Facebook), and make a jpg. That’s it.

After Photoshop.

I hope this behind-the-scene tutorial was informative, helpful, and inspirational. If you’re like to see more content like this, follow my Instagram.


About the author: Noah Stephens is a Detroit-based portrait photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Stephens founded The People of Detroit in 2011 as a counterpoint to Detroit-focused ruin porn. That led to commercial assignments for McDonald’s, Ford, General Motors, Ally Financial, and “Detroit” by Oscar award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. He enjoys science and philosophy podcasts, cycling, and considering our position in the infinite cosmic void. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Credits: Client: City of Detroit Planning Department/Giffels-Webster. Photography and Creative Direction: Noah Stephens. Subject: Nicole Valentini. Assistant: Sterling Hurd. I’d like to give a special thanks to Nicole, Sterling, and Heilmann Rec Center supervisor Byron Spivey. Also, Khalil Ligon in the City Planning Department and Michael Darga at Giffels-Webster for bringing me on board for this project.

This is a 550W Off-Camera Flash Made for Your Smartphone

The Filipino electronics company Innovatronix has announced the CPFlash 550W: it’s the most powerful off-camera flash ever made for smartphone photographers and videographers.

Purportedly the “first and only high power off-camera flash for your smartphone,” the flash boasts a whopping 550W of high-efficiency LED lighting, putting out 95000 lux at 1.64 feet (0.5m) with a light modifier. The flash is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion 18650 battery that can provide 100 full-power flashes per charge (or 300 to 500 flashes under normal shooting conditions).

Flash power can be adjusted from 0.5% to 100%, flash duration can be adjusted from 80ms to 500ms, and 8 different 20W video lighting effects will also be at your fingertips: Continuous, Flicker, Lightning, TV, Paparazzi, Police, Strobe, and Fire.

There will be free companion iOS and Android apps for the flash, providing a user-friendly interface for checking and adjusting settings over a Bluetooth connection from 66 feet (20m) away (line of sight). The flash can also work with other flashes via a UHF wireless connection that can communicate at distances of 164 feet (50m).

Bundled with the flash are a number of accessories. You’ll get 6 magnetic acrylic glass filters, a rechargeable smartphone camera trigger, a wireless hotshoe trigger for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, and a detachable metal bracket.

Here’s a photo shot without an off-camera flash with the Samsung S10 smartphone:

And here’s the same shot illuminated with a flash from the CPFlash 550W:

Here’s a photo shot with the iPhone 11 Pro without the flash:

And here’s the shot with the flash used:

Here’s a 6-minute video that introduces the flash and shows what it can do:

The Innovatronix CPFlash 550W will be available starting on March 31st, 2020, for $199 on Shopify and $219 on Amazon and eBay.

Sony WH-1000XM4 headphone leaked

This isn’t an Alpha leak but I know many of you use headphones for video editing like I do. I just recently bought the discounted Sony WH1000XM3 headphones. Well the new WH1000XM4 just got leaked and I guess they will…

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Reports of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III going to sleep/locking up briefly

There are a few reports of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III going to “sleep” briefly after taking a few shots with the camera. The Read more…

The 10 Most Surprisingly Good Movies of 2019

Every year, Taste of Cinema takes it upon themselves to write countless end-of-the-year lists. We make an effort to provide lists that highlight the best and the worst cinematic experiences of the year. Historically, the more positive lists tend to get stronger, more positive reactions.

That’s why this list is so special. It’s primarily composed of movies that absolutely could have wound up on any number of negative lists. The films listed below initially appeared to be questionable in terms of quality. Few, if any, were guaranteed failures, but none of them stuck out for the right reasons.

The entries on this list are by no means the greatest accomplishments of last year. That kind of discussion can be found in another list. Instead, you’ll find a selection of films that surpassed expectations in one way or another.

 

1. Brittany Runs a Marathon

Okay, so maybe the Sundance hype may have clued people into the level of quality beforehand, but there were still a few question marks surrounding Amazon’s $14 million acquisition. Before its theatrical release, the biggest question was probably, “is this thing really worth that kind of investment?”

The short answer is no, but not because of a lack of quality. Brittany Runs a Marathon stumbled at the box office, where it only made $7.4 million. It actually forced Amazon to rethink their release strategy. This sort of financial turmoil didn’t help the film’s prospective viewer-count, which is probably why nobody is taking the time to hype it up.

Honestly, it deserves hype. Brittany Runs a Marathon is an inspiring redemption tale that will make you want to reach for the stars. This based-on-a-true story tale of a lazy woman who gets her butt in gear is equal parts charming and emotionally impactful. Jillian Bell gives a career-defining performance, while Paul Downs Colaizzo struts his stuff in his directorial debut. You won’t want to miss it, even if everybody else did.

 

2. Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep must have been a daunting film to direct. On the one hand, Mike Flanagan had to create a film that appealed to the Kubrick-loving masses. On the other hand, he needed to create a film that appealed to Stephen King, who notoriously hated Kubrick’s vision. It’s really hard to imagine someone striking that balance, but if anyone could do it, Flanagan could.

Surprise, surprise – he pulled it off. Some people have taken issue with the recreated scenes from the original movie, but all in all, Flanagan’s interpretation of Doctor Sleep does the source material justice and serves as a love letter to its classic predecessor. It isn’t quite as scary as its predecessor, but it’s a different kind of story. Doctor Sleep’s fantastical storytelling devices work in their own way.

The box office numbers were weak, but that means nothing in the long-run. The fact of the matter is, Doctor Sleep was the best Stephen King adaptation of last year. In the Tall Grass, It Chapter 2, and Pet Sematary all failed to compete. This is the crowning achievement of 2019.

 

3. Alita: Battle Angel

If you were to think back on past anime and manga adaptations, you’d have a list of some positively wretched examples of cinema. From Dragon Ball Evolution to Death Note to everything in between, it’s borderline pointless to have any sort of expectations going into these kinds of adaptations. This remains true even when people like Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron are involved.

Big names meant that people would approach Alita: Battle Angel with cautious optimism, but the key word is “cautious.” Prior to release, we still knew that this was an adaptation of a manga. We couldn’t even trust it with Martin Scorses. People had been burned too many times, so what would make this any different?

The answer depends on who you ask. For the purpose of this article, we’ll say that Alita: Battle Angel does run into some pretty common roadblocks that seem to plague every adaptation of this sort. At the same time, it is able to stand out as a result of lavish visuals and adrenaline-pumping action. This is a blast to sit through in spite of the occasional cliché.

It’s also a blast to sit through because the crew clearly cares about the source material. Seriously, there are several moments that come straight out of the original manga. Watching them on a big screen feels euphoric at times. While familiarity with the source material is beneficial, it should also be noted that the final product can be appreciated on its own merits. Long story short, Alita has broken the curse.

 

4. Hustlers

Hustlers is probably one of the more straightforward entries on the list. The cast was iffy, the subject matter was questionable, and the director hadn’t really proven herself yet. There doesn’t need to be a drawn-out paragraph describing why Hustlers fits the bill. It just didn’t look very good.

Somehow, miraculously, everything just comes together. The hit-or-miss Jennifer Lopez gives the best performance of her career, Lorene Scafaria’s daring script knows exactly when to switch between funny and empowering, and the twists-and-turns are liable to keep the average viewer invested. This doesn’t look like the type of film to pick up awards season momentum, but it actually gained some traction.

That traction was well-deserved. Beyond Lopez, who got most of the attention, there’s a strong script and an impressive level of polish. This is more than a crime movie about strippers. This is a movie that ticks all the right boxes.

 

5. Always Be My Maybe

Romantic comedies are more maligned than any other genre. Given the abundance of star-studded money grabs consisting of eye-roll-inducing narrative tropes, this level of hatred seems natural. With that in mind, a predominantly Asian cast didn’t do much to stop people from hating on Always Be My Maybe. Representation is certainly something Hollywood has been improving upon as of late, but formulaic is formulaic no matter how you slice it, and this definitely looked like another lazy romcom that liberally borrowed from other sources.

As we all know, looks can be deceiving. Structurally, Always Be My Maybe may follow a certain template, but there’s more than meets the eye. Beneath the familiarity, you’ll find a movie with a message. There’s a social commentary here that’s missing from most of the competition. Sure, this could function as a typical date movie, but there’s also depth aplenty.

Overall, Always Be My Maybe works because it offers the best of both worlds. Viewers are able to quench a variety of metaphorical thirsts because of the whip-smart script coupled with the surprising thematic depth. The much talked about cameo appearance is the cherry on top.