Review: The Shape of Water

Yesterday was Oscar Nominations Day and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water garnered 13 nominations, more than any other film this year.

Of the nine Best Picture nominees, Alli and I had only seen three up to this point so we took the opportunity last night to trek to our local AMC and check out this movie.

I’m not sure what I expected as my experience with del Toro is fairly limited. I saw the first Pacific Rim, but I’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth or any of his other movies. The opening scene immediately takes you into Elisa Esposito’s life. As we learn about her, we are introduced to her work, where we meet the rest of the story.

A more well-done version of Splash

I’m hesitant to describe much about the story. I went in with very little expectation or knowledge of the story outside of the trailer. However, after the fact, Alli very accurately described the movie as “a more well-done version of Splash.”

This is exceedingly accurate.

The cinematography and set design of this movie are stunning and Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the mute Elisa. Richard Jenkins puts in another amazing performance as Elisa’s artist neighbor. Michael Shannon provides just enough villainy to push the story along and Octavia Spencer plays, well…Octavia Spencer. I don’t mean to discount her performance…it’s fine. But is it Oscar-worthy? Not really.

Should you see this movie?

It really depends. Are you someone that wants to see all the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movies? Well then, yeah. See it. Are you creeped out by someone falling in love with a fish-man? Maybe don’t see this one, then.

Do you like Guillermo del Toro’s more subtle work? This movie isn’t over the top in its effects or monsters. In fact, I’d argue that this “monster” shows more humanity than some of the human counterparts at times.

It’s a unique take on a love story and I really enjoyed it a lot.

After a (not-so) brief hiatus

…two-plus years, specifically….

I’m reviving this site. I’ve wanted to bring back this blog for a long time now, but with balancing photography and either Chipotle or my other work, it’s been a little much.

It’s been a pretty amazing two years. Let’s see if I can summarize quickly:

  • Worked for Chipotle for about a year and a half during one of the most difficult times in the company’s history. Ultimately was a casualty of their business downturn — they call it “restructuring” in corporations — and parted ways a year ago.
  • Leaned into Shane & Alli Photography in a big way. The business is doing really well and continues to be a lot of fun for Alli and me.
  • Spent most of 2017 working for a nonprofit, leading their marketing, community fundraising and annual giving efforts. More “restructuring.”
  • Traveled to some really amazing countries — Iceland, Ireland, Czech Republic. I’ll come back to those in a future post.
  • Adopted two dogs after Dreyfuss passed away. Named them Buzz and Woody.
  • Turned 40.
  • And 41.

So yeah, that’s what’s been going on with me. I still tweet a ton and I post a lot of photos on Instagram.

The blog just became kind of secondary to all the other social media things that were going on. I pointed this domain to my Tumblr for a while because I at least was pushing my Instagram posts there…

Over the holidays, I had this idea to start a movie blog that took a slightly different approach. Then I thought to myself, “I can’t even blog on my own site, what makes me think I could do a movie blog?” So a few days ago, I dusted off the SQL database for this blog, installed a fresh WordPress instance and voila! Here we are.

Let’s see if it sticks.

Saying Goodbye to AMC

To start, I should probably take you back about 20 years.

I think I was about 18 years old when I figured out that AMC was based in Kansas City. As a teenager, I couldn’t think of a job that sounded like more fun. Working for a movie theater chain? Sign me up.

It took me about ten years of my career, but in 2010, I finally made it to the company I’d set my sights on so long ago. At the end of this month, I will say goodbye to that company to embark on a brand new adventure. More on that in a bit…

A little reflection

The past five-plus years have been so much fun. I got to work on something I love (movies) for a company I respect (AMC) with a lot of really talented people (too many to list). I got to do fun things like help launch the company’s Twitter presence (which got some national recognition), redesign and rearchitect the company’s website and then got to take on a completely new challenge, leading the loyalty program for the past 2+ years. I got promoted. I got to manage people. I got to help craft the marketing strategy for one of the most respected brands in entertainment.

There are so many things that I’ve loved about my job. Sure, there have been things that have been difficult about it, but that comes with any position. I consider myself really really lucky to have been able to work at AMC for as long as I have.

But it’s time to move on.

Some of you might know that my wife and I have been running a photography business in Kansas City for the past several years. Starting August 1, we will officially be running Shane & Alli Photography as our primary business and sole source of income.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been working hard in corporate America. I’ve seen a lot of success bringing my skills and ideas to other people. Alli and I have had this business on the side that we’ve absolutely adored and wanted to do full time for a while. We’ve decided to take the leap and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Photography? But you’re in marketing.

Photography has been a passion of mine since I first picked up a camera as a kid. I remember a time in my life when I saw myself as an Associated Press photographer. What I’ve learned is that capturing people in real-life moments is so rewarding and affords me such great creativity that I don’t need to travel the world to tell stories with photos. We’ve got plenty right here in our backyard.

Not only that, but I’m planning to take my 15 years of corporate consumer and business marketing experience and applying it to creating new photography offerings that solve needs for businesses in their social media marketing practices.

Most importantly, I get to run a business with my best friend. Alli and I have really enjoyed every moment that we’ve been able to work together on this business. And who knows? Maybe we’ll turn it into even more cool things down the road. For now, we’re going to build out our studio and focus on capturing snapshots of the special moments in our clients’ lives. We think we are pretty good at it.

So here’s my pitch…

What’s that you say?

You need family photos or senior photos or professional portraits or engagement or wedding photos? We do it all. Our website is getting a refresh. You can find us on Facebook or on follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr. Or you can just shoot me an email. We’d be happy to help.

My 7 Favorite Movies of 2012 (so far)

The holiday season is upon us! This is a busy time at work and in that spirit, I thought I’d present to you my favorite movies of the year so far. Some are still in theatres, but most aren’t. And I still haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but I’ve heard amazing things about it. So many great movies begin coming out around this time of year…here’s the stuff I’ve really liked.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holiday season is upon us! This is a busy time at work and in that spirit, I thought I’d present to you my favorite movies of the year so far. Some are still in theatres, but most aren’t. And I still haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but I’ve heard amazing things about it. So many great movies begin coming out around this time of year…here’s the stuff I’ve really liked (in no particular order):

Ruby Sparks

Zoe Kazan’s wonderful little movie about an author whose writer’s block leads him to manifest a character from his writings into real life. Paul Dano and Kazan (who date in real life, I believe) have terrific chemistry and Chris Messina provides terrific support as Dano’s brother.

Ruby Sparks is out on DVD and Blu-Ray

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph posterI’m a sucker for good animated movies. They’re accessible to all ages and have more flexibility to be creative than most traditional films. Wreck-It Ralph fits that mold completely, telling the story of a “bad guy” from the video game Fix-It Felix, Jr., who decides he doesn’t want to be bad anymore. The adventure leads him to “game jump” trying to prove all of the people of his game wrong. Released by Disney Animation under the tutelage of John Lassiter, who was one of the co-creators of Pixar, this movie has all the things that we love about Pixar movies: originality, comedy and heart. The voice characterization of the main characters by John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) is nothing short of perfect. I loved this movie. And I haven’t talked to a single person yet who hasn’t felt the same way. Bonus points for the short film that precedes it, Paper Man. Just trust me on that one.

Wreck-It Ralph is in theatres now

The Dark Knight Rises

There is no doubt that Christopher Nolan revolutionized not just the Batman franchise, but the approach of comic book movies into the future. Batman Begins was the reboot that all of these other comic book reboots have been based on and The Dark Knight Rises is the wonderful conclusion to his epic trilogy.

The Dark Knight Rises is out on DVD and Blu-Ray December 4


Argo posterBen Affleck has become one of the most talented and sought-after directors in Hollywood. So far, he hasn’t missed a step. Last year’s The Town was one of the best films of the year and should have garnered him his first Academy Award nomination since Good Will Hunting. This year, Affleck tackled a historical film about a CIA mission to get out several embassy workers from Iran in the late 1970’s. Affleck both stars and directs in this taut thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat the whole movie long. He stays very faithful to the era and gets wonderful supporting performances from John Goodman and Alan Arkin.

Argo is in theatres now

Moonrise Kingdom

Most people either love or hate Wes Anderson movies. He has a very specific style that people either like or dislike. There isn’t a lot in between. I actually kind of fall in between though. I’ve never been a huge fan (for example, I think Rushmore is extremely overrated), but he has his moments. This year’s Moonrise Kingdom was, to me, his best work to date. Creative and quirky, Moonrise Kingdom follows two kids who fall in love during a summer on an island off the coast of New England. The kids who play the main characters are perfectly weird and play their roles well and the adults provide a backdrop that shows people don’t stop being screwed up even into their adult years.

Moonrise Kingdom is out on Blu-Ray and DVD

The Perks of Being a Walflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower posterI read this book way back in 2005. When I heard about the movie adaptation, I was nervous. I really loved the book and I thought it might be difficult to translate to screen. I was comforted by the fact that Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the book, was writing the screenplay and directing. I was not disappointed. Telling the story of a confused teenager named Charlie, Chbosky explores some pretty heavy subject material for teenagers, but gets a wonderful assist from his talented cast, led by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. This movie really succeeds in staying true to the challenging nature of the book, but keeping it accessible to many audiences.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still out in some theatres

The Avengers

It’s difficult for me to write a best-of list without the biggest blockbuster of the year, Marvel’s The Avengers. Anchored by the return of everyone’s favorite billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, played by the always terrific Robert Downey, Jr., The Avengers was arguably one of the biggest movies of the year, bringing together the last few years of work that Marvel has done with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk. What results is a really big, fun, entertaining ride that pits good vs. evil for the fate of the planet. When it comes to entertainment, I don’t know if there was another movie this year that could eclipse The Avengers.

The Avengers is out on Blu-Ray and DVD now

There’s still a lot of great stuff yet to come this year. I’m looking forward to seeing Lincoln, Life of Pi, The Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, The Hobbit, The Impossible and Promised Land.

So what have your favorite movies of the year been? And what are you most looking forward to seeing this holiday season?

Very Cool, Cookie

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

One brand that is just way beyond everyone else in terms of engagement and knowing their audience and their brand is Oreo. Not only are these cookies beloved and universally known throughout the world, they have a passionate audience to the tune of over 27 million Likes on Facebook. Part of the reason that they’ve got such great engagement is their Daily Twist campaign like the one below that they shared on Pride Day:

Daily Twist - Oreo Pride

One of the great things about having something as identifiable as a black-and-white cookie is that it can be modified to be so many different things, including items that are movie-related:

Oreo Daily Twist - TDKR

I’m a big fan of Oreo and what they’re doing. Yesterday, they tweeted:


Now, my company has a “No Outside Food and Beverage” policy (as do most theatres, concert venues and sporting arenas). Oreo knows that because they even used the #slicksnacker hash tag to indicate that outside Oreos are contraband in a theatre. So I decided to have a little fun.


8 minutes.

8 minutes was all it took for us to craft a 3-word response. No legal departments. No approvals. Our social media team has such a great amount of trust from our leadership that we can speak off the cuff through our brand voice and know that we have their support. It helps when we’re clever, too.

Shortly after we sent the tweet out, I left the office for the afternoon for a Kansas City tech conference. Now, I’ve got AMC’s Twitter account connected to my phone. I kept up with the feed during the conference and watched as our terrific followers began retweeting and retweeting and retweeting. By the end of the night, the tweet reached over 200 retweets, which translates to a WHOLE LOT of reach in the world of Twitter. I was pretty proud of what I had done. I shared it on Facebook and went to bed thinking that was the end of it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sometime between the time I woke up this morning and the time I got to work, it exploded. It made the front page of AdWeek, thanks to this AdWeek blog post and my Twitter feed began getting inundated with congratulations and kudos. The number of retweets was over 500 and climbing rapidly and Oreo even responded.


Not a #humblebrag, but a point

I promise this post isn’t meant to be one giant #humblebrag. I have a point to all this. The truth is that an interaction like this is why I believe so fervently in the power of social media professionals within brands. With the proper structure and governance (and a buttload of trust from your superiors), stuff like this can happen.

Trust is important.

I cannot emphasize this enough. As the AdWeek story circulated around the office, I wanted to make one thing clear to my superiors: successes like this are not purely the result of being clever. Being given the latitude to react and respond is critical for a social media group within a brand. Trust matters. The trust that we have been given is an invaluable asset in instances like this. And I will continue to live up to that trust…why wouldn’t I? I am a representative of the brand (a brand that I am proud of), so why would I do anything that would harm the brand?

That ownership in what we do better equips myself and my colleagues to do amazing things. It helps if you have a brand whose voice is defined as “fun and engaging.”

Now what?

The story continued throughout the day. More and more retweets of our “NOT COOL, COOKIE” post (it’s now over 1,000) and too many congratulations from people around the office. Still, we saw one more opportunity to engage with Oreo’s response.

What we came back with was pretty fun, I think (big hat tip to my colleague and AMC’s Social Media Manager Justin who had the idea).


Yes. Those are Oreos on my eyes.

If there’s anything to learn from my story, it’s this: if you are a brand representative in social spaces, be sure that you understand your brand voice. Fight for an amount of autonomy where it makes sense so you can be agile and respond not just to customer service-related questions, but to the pop culture zeitgeist as well.