Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water (2016)
“Calvary, but not Cavalry” The first of many startling images in director David Mackenzie’s neo-Western, Hell or High Water (2016) is of three crosses embedded in tile into an adobe building. We see the Christian icons in the background of the image, through the drive-through lanes as a teller opens her branch of the West ...

Within Our Gates (1920)

Within Our Gates (1920)
“Getting Recognized More and More”: Donald Trump and Within Our Gates “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” These are the incredible words of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. To compound the horror of it, President ...

Gold (2016)

Gold (2016)
“Way Out There in the Blue” At the ending “Requiem” of Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman (1949), Willy Loman’s neighbor, Charley delivers one of the most iconic statements on the American Dream in all of literature: “Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there ...

Why Him? (2016)

Why Him? (2016)
“Amber Ways of Gain” In Anatomy of Criticism, literary critic Northrop Frye argues that the conflict between civilization and nature lies at the center of the Shakespearean comedy. Youngsters must enter what Frye calls the “green world” in order to work out their disconnects from adult society before returning to take over political power from ...

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016)
“What Color Is Your Computer?” In his 1986 book, Grammophone, Film, Typewriter, German cultural theorist Friedrich Kittler builds a pessimistic history of communication technology by observing the nineteenth century slippage between the newly invented typewriter (whose first success came in 1868 in the post-Civil War United States), and the mostly women who soon operated the ...

La La Land (2016)

La La Land (2016)
“More Than One La La Land” The responses to La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016) have been predictable. There is the immediate majority, those of us who are completely enamored of its loving recreation of classical Hollywood films, such as Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1952), celebrations of the power of ...

Arrival (2016)

Arrival (2016)
“The Palindrome of Cinema” In his book, Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood taught us to stop worrying and love the fifties, Peter Biskind presents a four-pronged system for understanding the politics of post-war American cinema. Contrary to the conflict between the Right and the Left in Franklin Roosevelt’s 1930s, the Cold War consensus resulted in ...

Passengers (2016)

Passengers (2016)
“Morton Tyldum: Science-Fiction as Misdirection” Morten Tyldum’s new film, Passengers is the best sort of science-fiction, one where it turns out the genre is irrelevant to the film’s theme. At its core, Passengers is a down-to-Earth melodrama, about the love two people find under the worst, most Existentially bleak circumstances. Passengers positions Tyldum as one ...

Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One (2016)
“Physical Media from Long, Long Ago” The development of digital media from its analog forebears is one of the most important stories of the development of our current, high technology world. My students look at me funny when I pull out a DVD instead of looking up a clip on YouTube. However, in the world ...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
“Harry Potter and the Historical Anachronisms” One of the most startling things about J.K. Rowling’s world of wizards and witches is the importance placed on material objects, both by the author and her characters. When the basilisk is terrorizing the school after being released from the Chamber of Secrets, Colin Creevey survives only because he ...