Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)
The Blood of a Programmer — During the first half of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, I fell in love with its startling imagery. The plot concerns Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a mediocre computer programmer who wins a contest to live for a week at his famous boss’ remote retreat. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is a genius who, ...

Vacation (2015)

Vacation (2015)
Roadside Regenerations — The cleverest, if not funniest, moment in this summer’s remake of 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation occurs when the family, headed by erstwhile patriarch Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), the son of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) sits around the table in Act I discussing the merits of re-visiting “the original vacation.” The slippage between ...

Mad Men: “Person to Person” (2015)

Mad Men:
On Don Draper’s Smile — In perhaps the most enigmatic smile since the Mona Lisa’s, Mad Men comes to an end with Don Draper grinning ever so slightly, sitting cross-legged on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at a self-help commune, chanting “om.” The wry facial gesture unfolds as the edges of his lips turn ...

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything (2014)
What Place for the Humanities in a Theory of Everything? — Incapacitated by Lou Gehrig’s disease, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) in James Marsh’s film, The Theory of Everything (2014) is confined to a wheelchair that his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones) must operate with great difficulty. Crushed by the responsibility, Jane has sought out the companionship ...

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Our Revels Now Are Ended — I was resolutely planning on never seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron, having suffered through the three-hour mess that was the first installment, about a flying aircraft carrier that is attacked by aliens and defended by superheroes for some reason. However, one of my astute students knew exactly how to ...

Home (2015)

Home (2015)
Home is Where the Art Is — In his elegant short book about The Wizard of Oz, post-colonial author and intellectual Salman Rushdie argues that the MGM techincolor extravaganza is in fact an allegory for the post-colonial subject. Dorothy is so desirous of leaving Kansas to travel over the rainbow, but once she’s there, she ...

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014)
A War of Typewriters — In Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986, tr. 1999), his masterpiece of media and technology history, German cultural studies scholar Friedrich Kittler laments how modernity overwhelmed humanity with its machines. He sees this process having begun in the 19th century. Step by step, electronic devices commandeered all of the human sensory functions: ...

Paddington (2014)

Paddington (2014)
Enter, Following a Bear — For those of you who love PBS because it shows “better” British television sitcoms, it is probably no surprise that Paddington, the new children’s movie directed by Paul King, based on a series of post-war children’s books by Michael Bond, beloved in Britain and Europe, is a really enjoyable film. ...

Big Eyes (2014)

Big Eyes (2014)
Art for Sale — An off-putting eccentricity, especially in the Johnny Depp era, has been the hallmark of the unimpressive films of Tim Burton. The director’s latest, Big Eyes, is a revelation, not for its expansion of his idiosyncratic personal style, but for its sublimation. Big Eyes is by far Burton’s most conventional film: it ...

Wild (2014)

Wild (2014)
As She Walked, Living — I am not at all certain that I can trust my recollections of Wild, the gut-wrenching new film directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, the French-Canadian responsible for helming last year’s Dallas Buyers Club. Based on a memoir penned by Cheryl Strayed, entitled Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest ...