Frozen (2013)

Frozen (2013)
Way Down North The newest film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Frozen finally expresses the much overdue full impact of the Pixar revolution at the studio where the animated feature was born.  There’s a moment late in the film when the rugged hero, Kristoff rushes to attempt to save Anna, the film’s heroine. The town ...

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Scorsese’s Candyland In recent years, Martin Scorsese has become a very different filmmaker than he used to be. In his early films—from Mean Streets to Raging Bull—his intense Catholicism and scrutiny of Italian-American masculinity led to a reductionist view of the human experience, confined to the streets of New York City. In recent years, with ...

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Un-Hep Cat While wandering around New York City, broke and homeless, misanthropic Llewyn Davis, the hero of the new Coen Brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, stops in front of a one-sheet advertising Walt Disney’s 1963 film, The Incredible Journey, about two dogs and a cat trekking through the Canadian wilderness to finally arrive home. ...

Grudge Match (2013)

Grudge Match (2013)
Allegory of the Ring Grudge Match, a seemingly silly film about two geriatric boxers played by Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro, turns out to be the most interesting film this holiday season. Alas, not many will go to see it, because people are trained to see the surface of things. Instead, what I want to ...

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
The Sheep of Wall Street In March 1939, The New Yorker magazine published one of the most concise short stories ever written, James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” In fifteen short paragraphs, the satirist Thurber presented his great invention, a hen-pecked husband who spends his life dreaming of adventure. In 1947, Norman McLeod ...

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
The (East) Wind in the (Palm) Trees, or, Her Father’s Shadow One of the epigraphs of Christian Keathley’s wonderful book on our love of cinema, Cinephilia and History, is from a 1940s lament about the decline of cinema by one of the medium’s foundational filmmakers, D.W. Griffith. The maker of Intolerance claims that films used ...

Mothlight (1963)

Mothlight (1963)
My Favorite Movie When people ask me what my favorite movie is, my first response is always peevish: Do you ask chemists what their favorite element is? “I like tungsten so much better than molybdenum!” After I settle down, I’ll usually argue Mothlight by Stan Brakhage. Made in 1963, Mothlight is less than four minutes, ...

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
Of Anchors and Animals In my work on natural history cinema and Hollywood romantic comedy, I observed that Failure to Launch (Tom Dey, 2006), a standard genre film starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, uses the animal world as a guide for human relationships. At the beginning of the film, squirrels assault McConaughey and ...

American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle (2013)
Louis C Minus In the now yearly coal black Christmas presents of David O. Russell’s cinematic exercises in overrated filmmaking, American Hustle seems to oddly theorize its own failure. One of the leads, FBI agent Richie DiMaso (played by Bradley Cooper), surely one of the most ill-treated G-Men in the history of cinema, requests two ...

The Odyssey (1995)

The Odyssey (1995)
One-Minute Cinema I just got done teaching my course on “Short Cinema Studies,” wherein I attempt to help student filmmakers analyze films similar to those which they have the budget to make, not massive features such as Citizen Kane and Vertigo, those darlings of the academic world. I begin the course with a 55 second ...