The Upside (2019)

The Upside (2019)
“Kevin Hart Goes to the Opera” I just had a shocking experience at the movies, the kind that makes you feel like you got hit by lightning. I went to see Neil Burger’s The Upside, whose plot description, about a streetwise Black man who takes care of a grumpy rich white male quadriplegic, seems just ...

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: ...

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 ...

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, ...

Maniac (2018)

Maniac (2018)
“Perchance to Dream, Televisually” One of the last major trends in American television, before it ceased to exist, was the rise of quality programming on Home Box Office. Started in the early 1970s as a way of delivering television to rural areas, by the late 1990s, HBO was creating the most sophisticated television in both ...

Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)
“Resistance is Futile, or Borg vs. Borg” The poster for Borg vs. McEnroe (2017), a Scandinavian film about the 1980 Wimbledon men’s tennis final directed by Janus Metz (alas, no relation), states that it is “the first truly great tennis movie.” I’m not sure whether that’s true, nor why it would matter. Indeed, Borg vs. ...