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, ...

The Romanoffs: “Expectation” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“I bet it’s all lies” Episode four of Matt Weiner’s The Romanoffs, “Expectation,” delivers another astonishing ending, evoking the single effect that Edgar Allan Poe finds so remarkable about the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The exact intertextual connection between each episode of The Romanoffs and specific short stories is less important than the powerful ...

The Romanoffs: “House of Special Purpose” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“The Fall of the House of Romanov; or, Rasputin, a Real Mad Man” Episode three of Matt Weiner’s The Romanoffs continues to demand attention to the way great authors construct tightly-contained short stories. In “The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale (1842),” Edgar Allan Poe praises the skills Nathaniel Hawthorne displays in ...

The Romanoffs: “The Royal We” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“Tell The Russians We’re Coming” Matthew Weiner’s anthology series, The Romanoffs is beginning to shape up as a collection of great short stories. In the second episode, “The Royal We,” Weiner tells the story of Michael and Shelly Romanoff, a couple whose marriage is collapsing. Figure #1: Michael and Shelly Romanoff at couples counseling One ...

The Romanoffs: “The Violet Hour” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“A Magic Hour” The Romanoffs, Matthew Weiner’s new anthology series streaming on Amazon Prime, seems poised to rival his earlier Mad Men, one of the great dramas in the history of American television. The credit sequence begins with the Russian royal family gathering in a room filled with priceless oil paintings and statuary. Their clean ...