The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water (2017)
“On Water’s Shape” At first glance, Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece, The Shape of Water (2017) appears to be a straightforward intertextual reworking of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954). In the earlier film, a group of American scientists discover an aquatic monster in the Amazon. After his lair is disturbed by the ...

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One (2018)
“So shines a good deed in a weary world” By returning the industry to its mad quest for blockbuster-level profits, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) and George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) killed an academically beloved period of American cinema, the Hollywood Renaissance, a set of ambitious, modernist, politically critical films ranging from The Graduate and Easy ...

The Post (2017)

The Post (2017)
“The Specter of the Shark” In his seminal film studies essay, “Jaws, Ideology, and Film Theory,” Stephen Heath analyzes Jaws using three ideological filters: the Watergate scandal, the women’s liberation movement, and the Vietnam War. Through only one filter does the 1975 Steven Spielberg film emerge as liberal. Early in the film, the Mayor of ...

Genesis (1999)

“Adapting Genesis” Introduction The phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) spurred a much-needed revitalization of interest in the relationship between the cinema and religion. However, from the point-of-view of those of us desiring a re-invention of adaptation studies, the impact of this film is quite regrettable. The Passion of the ...

Treme (2010-2013)

Katrina on My Mind: Pedagogy, Kate Chopin’s New Orleans, and HBO’s Treme John Goodman plays Creighton Bernette, a Tulane University English professor (based on real-life political blogger Ashley Morris) on Treme (HBO, 2010-2013), Eric Overmyer’s and David Simon’s beautifully novelistic television show. Bernette, who has become a national figure for railing against the Bush Administration’s ...

“Unfriending” Hawthorne

“Unfriending” Hawthorne
“Unfriending Hawthorne” Near the top of the list of film adaptations that drive literature professors to angry distraction is surely The Scarlet Letter (Ronald Joffé, 1995), a big budget Hollywood version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel. Beautifully shot and interestingly performed by a diverse range of actors—as Hester Prynne, Demi Moore, a young movie starlet; ...

Twin Peaks: The Return [episode 7: There’s a Body Alright] (2017)

Twin Peaks: The Return [episode 7: There's a Body Alright] (2017)
“Warhol/Snow/Lynch” The end of episode seven of Twin Peaks: The Return, cheekily entitled (by my Dish Network DVR), “There’s a Body All Right,” is caught between two experimental film traditions of the 1960s: that of Pop artist, Andy Warhol, and the structural cinema of Michael Snow. In my favorite shot of the entire series thus ...

Twin Peaks: The Return [episode 5: Case Files] (2017)

Twin Peaks: The Return [episode 5: Case Files] (2017)
“Over the Waterfall: The Centrifugal Nature of Twin Peaks: The Return” The credit sequence of Twin Peaks: The Return begins with the familiar school portrait of Laura Palmer superimposed on the waterfall near the Great Northern Hotel. However, unlike the earlier seasons, when we see the flowing cascade from a distance, we now watch from ...

The Lost City of Z (2016)

The Lost City of Z (2016)
“An Image of Amazonia” In “An Image of Africa,” his scolding 1975 lecture to the Anglo-American literary establishment delivered at the University of Massachusetts, Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe laments the modernist celebration of Joseph Conrad’s purportedly anti-imperialist novel, Heart of Darkness (1899). Achebe argues that, despite the indictment of the lunacy of White imperialism in ...

Elle (2016)

Elle (2016)
“Autobiographies of Violence” For years, the films of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven have been dogged in academic circles by their hyper-violence. In Hollywood films like Robocop (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997), the Fascist nature of the violence within the plot is so graphically drawn that it begins to seem as if the special effects and ...