Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)
“And the Franchise is Still Standing!” The new Ghostbusters has garnered a stunningly negative reaction. Fans have taken the position that such films ruin their childhoods by replacing beloved male heroes with women. Among the infantile misogyny directed at the film: “Feminists ruin the world” and “Women are just incapable of being funny.” Meanwhile, a ...

Swiss Army Man (2016)

Swiss Army Man (2016)
“His Man Saturday Through Friday” Swiss Army Man, the perplexing first feature film by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan seems designed to replicate Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890). Shipwrecked and alone, Hank (Paul Dano) is attempting to hang himself outside of a cave on a beach. Just as he ...

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows (2016)
“Where the Buoys Are” One way of understanding The Shallows, an excellent new thriller, is to place it in dialogue with 1975’s Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s quintessential shark attack movie. In Jaume Collet-Serra’s new film, a medical student, Nancy (Blake Lively) travels alone to the Pacific coast of Mexico to go surfing after the traumatic death ...

A Hologram for the King (2016)

A Hologram for the King (2016)
“A Splash of Hope” Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer’s new film, A Hologram for the King constructs a fabulous post-colonial romance out of references to two very different Hollywood films. Adapted from a novel by Dave Eggers, the film concerns a failed businessman, Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) who travels to Saudi Arabia to sell ...

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse
“The One-Minute Star Trek” A fundamental intervention of my course on film criticism is to get students to see that our false belief in artistic unity does us tremendous damage in approaching the cinema as a useful site of sociological study. When a friend invites us to a restaurant, we do not judge the place ...

Alps (2011)

Alps (2011)
“Climb Every Mountain, Forge the Ionian Sea” Alps (2011), Yorgos Lanthimos’ film prior to The Lobster is an even more aggressive Surrealistic assault on our impoverished human relationships, indicting American popular culture as the language of our isolation. The film begins with a long shot of a female gymnast practicing her rhythmic routine with a ...

Love and Friendship (2016)

Love and Friendship (2016)
“Austensibly an Adaptation” In 1995 and 1996, a post-modern cult of Jane Austen developed around a number of audio-visual adaptations of the early nineteenth-century British novelist’s works, including Ang Lee’s of Sense and Sensibility (1811), starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet; a television miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (1813), starring Colin Firth; and three versions ...

Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special (2016)
“Not All That Close of an Encounter” Most reviews of Jeff Nichols’ latest film, Midnight Special (2016) suggest he is trying to make a blockbuster science-fiction film in the tradition of Steven Spielberg. In his positive review for The A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky finds the film to be “a unique blend of chase flick and ...

The Lobster (2016)

The Lobster (2016)
“Wherefore the International Art Cinema?” As I sat watching Yorgos Lanthimos’ elegant new film, The Lobster (2015), I was struck by how out of time it seemed. It is an exquisite piece of international art cinema, seemingly released fifty years too late. In the middle of the 1960s, such films proliferated around the world, with ...

The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys (2016)
“Nice Guys Finish First” This is my 150th post since I started writing regularly about films in current release, and it’s time to revisit my statement of purpose, a defense of learnedness as a framework for discussing the cinema. In applying Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” ...