Denial (2016)

Denial (2016)
“Canaries” Historian Deborah Lipstadt begins her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory with a methodological chapter she entitles, “Canaries in the Mine: Holocaust Denial and the Limited Power of Reason.” She worries about the 20% of Americans who, when surveyed about whether the Holocaust happened, answer in the negative. ...

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016)
“The Laughter of the Gods” The third installment of The Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions (2003) features an astonishing moment of philosophical import. As Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) endlessly pummels Neo (Keanu Reeves), the computerized villain questions his rival at great length: “Why, Mr. Anderson? Why, why? Why do you do it? Why, why get ...

Sully (2016)

Sully (2016)
“Eastwood’s Flight” Despite his political orientation, Clint Eastwood makes films which do something far more complicated that jingoistic patriotism: his cinema interrogates the impact of war trauma on the lives of everyday Americans. In his first directorial efforts, Play Misty for Me (1971) and High Plains Drifter (1973), Eastwood foregrounded traumatized Americans on a home ...

Don’t Breathe (2016)

Don't Breathe (2016)
“Detroit, Don’t Exhale” While replete with horror film genre conventions—a monstrous antagonist; teenagers caught in an old, dark scary house; a menacing pit bull; and the like—my interest in Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez’ new home invasion thriller lies in its representation of the collapsed modern American city. The plot concerns Rocky (Jane Levy), foolishly in ...

The Light Between Oceans (2016)

The Light Between Oceans (2016)
“The Light Between Filmmakers” In his exploration of the intertextual relationships between different generations of poets, literary critic Harold Bloom forwards an energistic theory—the anxiety of influence—to suggest how artists rebel against their forebears. Watching The Light Between Oceans, filmmaker Derek Cianfrance’s latest visual masterpiece, it struck me that a different emotion might characterize his ...

Cafe Society (2016)

Cafe Society (2016)
“Neither Café, Nor Society” After watching Woody Allen’s new film, I became obsessed with the title, Café Society (2016). At first, it was the opening word that bothered me. There’s nothing even close to a café in the film, at least in the sense that you’d imagine, a little French bistro where people sit around ...

Nerve (2016)

Nerve (2016)
“The Social Media Lighthouse” The new teen-pic, Nerve (directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman) concerns Vee (Emma Roberts), a lower middle-class high school senior from Staten Island whose wild friend introduces her to an underground internet fad. In the game, “Nerve” anonymous watchers dare players like Vee to perform increasingly dangerous stunts, the goal ...

Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out (2016)
“Lights, Not Out, but Colored” It is a truism of cinematography that film is a medium in which one sculpts light. No film this year plays as effectively with the implications of illumination, not only for image, but also narrative construction than the current horror film, Lights Out (David F. Sandberg, 2016). The film concerns ...

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
“The Miserable Have No Other Medicine” One disagreement I have with Star Trek fans concerns the credit sequence of the TV series, Enterprise (UPN, 2001-2005), one of the best things bequeathed to us by that which Gene Rodenberry hath wrought. “It’s been a long road / To get from there to here,” sings Russell Watson ...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)
“Performance Trumped” Because they help sad people laugh, comedy films are often dismissed by critics. However, in a culture where entertainment has consumed our news and politics, it’s imperative we examine how such films function. In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), sociologist Erving Goffman employs dramaturgical analysis to study how people relate ...