The Orville: “Home” (2019)

The Orville:
“Can There Be Star Trek Without Star Trek?” Seth MacFarlane’s new show on FOX, The Orville did not get off to a great start. Its pilot was wretched. Directed by the overrated Jon Favreau, “Old Wounds” (September 10, 2017) opens with Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) discovering his wife, Kelly (Adrianne Palicki) in bed with a blue ...

Black Mirror: “Bandersnatch” (2018)

Black Mirror:
“You Can Have Any Narrative You Want, As Long As It Is Netflix’s” There is a consensus developing among critics of Netflix’s new Black Mirror episode, “Bandersnatch” (Netflix, 12/28/18) that it is a show built on a mere “gimmick.” The story concerns a young computer programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), who in 1984 is developing ...

Holmes and Watson (2018)

Holmes and Watson (2018)
“The Game (of Genre) is Afoot, or Will Ferrell ‘a-starting’” In my course on academic film criticism, I critique popular reviewing as a “say nothing” enterprise; the practice often reduces to “the film was good [or bad].” The problem with such evaluative criticism is that without a methodology for determining what good or bad might ...

Mandy (2018)

Mandy (2018)
“The Sins of the Fathers” In The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (1973), literary critic Harold Bloom famously postulates a Freudian theory of intertextuality. Resulting from his study of Romantic poets, Bloom defines six potential relationships between new artists and their forebears. I propose using Bloom’s theory to study an actual father/son relationship, ...

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: “Meal Ticket” (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs:
“Cold, Hard Facts, But No Newspaper Nor Legend” One of the most cited moments in John Ford’s revisionist Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) occurs near the end: Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) completes his confession to the town’s newspaper editor. A lawyer turned U.S. Senator, Ranse has risen to power through a lie: ...

Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane (2018)

Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane (2018)
“The Tube Meaning of Christmas”: A Meditation on the Hallmark Channel at Christmastime My violin teacher, Ken Wollberg, asked me, if, since I study movies for a living, whether that included the Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel. With the exception of some cultural studies scholars like myself—I did, after all, spend a decade writing ...

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
“The Stinging Cowboy” Filmmakers in the United States and Europe usually start their careers making short films, then “graduating” to features. More advanced in their careers, filmmakers should return to short-form narrative, if for no other reason than to help young filmmakers learn how to tell a story before becoming overwhelmed with the responsibilities of ...

The Romanoffs: “Panorama” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“Matt Weiner’s Decisive Moment” There’s a continuum of narrative duration which captures the breadth of storytelling. Huge novel cycles (Les Rougon-Macquart by Emile Zola [1871-1983)] or Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past [1871-1922]) in literature, and massive cinematic works (Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s fifteen-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) or Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour Holocaust documentary, Shoah [1985]) constitute ...

The Romanoffs: “Bright and High Circle” (2018)

The Romanoffs: “Bright and High Circle” (2018)
“The Music Teacher, or ‘Unhappy in its own way’” “Bright and High Circle,” the fifth episode of The Romanoffs confirms the feminist critique of the show that has dogged it from the release of the pilot a month ago. A grotesque misstep, Matt Weiner’s story of purported mob rule, trying those accused of social transgressions ...

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
“Will the Real Rhapsodist Please Stand Up?” I was 18 years old when Queen performed at Wembley Stadium as part of the Live Aid rock concert on July 13, 1985. The fundraiser to benefit starving Ethiopians amid a civil war and famine was one of the most sophisticated live events in the history of broadcasting, ...