The Light Between Oceans (2016)

The Light Between Oceans (2016)
“The Light Between Filmmakers” In his exploration of the intertextual relationships between different generations of poets, literary critic Harold Bloom forwards an energistic theory—the anxiety of influence—to suggest how artists rebel against their forebears. Watching The Light Between Oceans, filmmaker Derek Cianfrance’s latest visual masterpiece, it struck me that a different emotion might characterize his ...

Cafe Society (2016)

Cafe Society (2016)
“Neither Café, Nor Society” After watching Woody Allen’s new film, I became obsessed with the title, Café Society (2016). At first, it was the opening word that bothered me. There’s nothing even close to a café in the film, at least in the sense that you’d imagine, a little French bistro where people sit around ...

Nerve (2016)

Nerve (2016)
“The Social Media Lighthouse” The new teen-pic, Nerve (directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman) concerns Vee (Emma Roberts), a lower middle-class high school senior from Staten Island whose wild friend introduces her to an underground internet fad. In the game, “Nerve” anonymous watchers dare players like Vee to perform increasingly dangerous stunts, the goal ...

Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out (2016)
“Lights, Not Out, but Colored” It is a truism of cinematography that film is a medium in which one sculpts light. No film this year plays as effectively with the implications of illumination, not only for image, but also narrative construction than the current horror film, Lights Out (David F. Sandberg, 2016). The film concerns ...

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
“The Miserable Have No Other Medicine” One disagreement I have with Star Trek fans concerns the credit sequence of the TV series, Enterprise (UPN, 2001-2005), one of the best things bequeathed to us by that which Gene Rodenberry hath wrought. “It’s been a long road / To get from there to here,” sings Russell Watson ...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)
“Performance Trumped” Because they help sad people laugh, comedy films are often dismissed by critics. However, in a culture where entertainment has consumed our news and politics, it’s imperative we examine how such films function. In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), sociologist Erving Goffman employs dramaturgical analysis to study how people relate ...

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)
“And the Franchise is Still Standing!” The new Ghostbusters has garnered a stunningly negative reaction. Fans have taken the position that such films ruin their childhoods by replacing beloved male heroes with women. Among the infantile misogyny directed at the film: “Feminists ruin the world” and “Women are just incapable of being funny.” Meanwhile, a ...

Swiss Army Man (2016)

Swiss Army Man (2016)
“His Man Saturday Through Friday” Swiss Army Man, the perplexing first feature film by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan seems designed to replicate Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890). Shipwrecked and alone, Hank (Paul Dano) is attempting to hang himself outside of a cave on a beach. Just as he ...

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows (2016)
“Where the Buoys Are” One way of understanding The Shallows, an excellent new thriller, is to place it in dialogue with 1975’s Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s quintessential shark attack movie. In Jaume Collet-Serra’s new film, a medical student, Nancy (Blake Lively) travels alone to the Pacific coast of Mexico to go surfing after the traumatic death ...

A Hologram for the King (2016)

A Hologram for the King (2016)
“A Splash of Hope” Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer’s new film, A Hologram for the King constructs a fabulous post-colonial romance out of references to two very different Hollywood films. Adapted from a novel by Dave Eggers, the film concerns a failed businessman, Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) who travels to Saudi Arabia to sell ...