It might seem like a no-brainer that trying to make a comedy movie featuring a character with cancer is not a great idea. And while there may be a good share of failed attempts in that category, 50/50 is not one of them. And then it might come as a surprise that this subtle attempt at cancer comedy comes courtesy of Superbad creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It also stars indie cutie Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young and fit Adam Lerner, who works as a writer for public radio before learning that he has malignant tumors all along his spine. Between his overbearing mum (Anjelica Huston), slightly obnoxious but good-hearted bestie (Seth Rogen), self-help groups, and his therapist (played by Anna Kendrick), he struggles to find a way of acquiescing to his 50/50 chance of survival. Similarly, 50/50 strikes a delicate balance between the bromance gags, the date-movie elements, and the grave subject matter at its heart. It manages to mine humor, pathos, and simple honesty from a dark situation, and is not afraid to “go there”. The result is truly compassionate comedy.
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For those of us who don't lurk on internet message boards and participate in social media culture, a documentary about memes might seem frivolous. But Feels Good Man steers the conversation into one about semiotics: the way images become symbols and can continue transforming—from a harmless expression of the self, into a hateful banner for bigotry, into a cry of protest and freedom. As his Pepe the Frog creation takes on a life of its own, artist Matt Furie attempts to reclaim ownership of it and finds that the relationship between an artist and their own work can be as difficult as any toxic relationship. It's a bleak view of how unfeeling internet culture can be, but it reminds us that we always still have some power to beat the hate.