The Frame (2014)

The Frame (2014)
“Re-Framing Samuel Beckett” Through their fundamental design, most artworks make us choose between embracing the values of high art or popular culture. An exception is Jamin Winans’ recent science-fiction film, The Frame (2014). In the film’s first shot, we meet Alex (David Carranza), a skillful cargo thief who is desperately trying to extract himself from ...

Keanu (2016)

Keanu (2016)
“Oil and Smoke: The Carnivalesque Double Consciousness of Key and Peele” The first thing I do when I teach film comedy is observe that the funniest contemporary films were loathed upon their release. Critics dismissed Airplane! (Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, 1980) and Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980) as sophomoric, not seeming to notice the close ...

Another Earth (2011)

Another Earth (2011)
“Another Self” In the middle of Mike Cahill’s excellent science-fiction film, Another Earth (2011), a melodramatic story about the discovery of an inhabited identical twin Earth in the solar system, John Burroughs (William Mapother) angrily rebukes the desire of Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) to join an exploratory space flight to the recently discovered planet. Burroughs ...

I Origins (2014)

I Origins (2014)
“Aye I Eye” Mike Cahill’s 2014 New Age science film, I Origins begins with a series of close-ups of eyes. In voice over, molecular biologist Ian (Michael Pitt) explains that he researches eyes because of the fascinating connection between the human eye and the camera, both lens-based technologies of vision. His scientific quest is to ...

Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul (2015)
“This Way for the Transformative Cinema, Ladies and Gentlemen” The new Holocaust film, Son of Saul (2016) opens with an astonishing shot. Completely out of focus, we see some people in the background, perhaps digging near a tree. After what seems like an eternity, to the point that one considers going to tell the projectionist ...

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
“The Dark Light” The new Batman vs. Superman movie is getting unfairly drubbed by reviewers. It is admittedly an overly ambitious film, but refreshing given that most other comic book movies are the graveyards of the uninspired. The film begins with a bravura sequence in which Jack Napier kills Bruce Wayne’s parents, returning to the ...

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)
“The Latitudes of Home” Southern Illinois is abuzz with anticipation of two total solar eclipses, the first to take place on August 21, 2017. Indeed, the greatest duration of this eclipse will pass almost directly above my house in Makanda. I am just as excited as anyone else, but perhaps for very different reasons. Southern ...

The Martian (2015)

The Martian (2015)
“An imitation of an action that is (not) serious?” In a petulant snit in accordance with the boy-men in his movies, director Judd Apatow recently whined about The Martian winning a Golden Globe award for best comedy. The strange categorization of science-fiction was a clever marketing maneuver by 20th Century Fox to allow Ridley Scott’s ...

Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia (2016)
“Gulls Gone Wild” At the heart of my study of the films made at Pixar Animation Studios is the figure of the trickster, a mythological figure who fights corrupt power with thievery and cunning. I derive this tradition in American animation from the works of Dr. Seuss, who used an autobiographical lad to express his ...

Suffragette (2015)

Suffragette (2015)
“Because They Are Right and We Are Wrong” A surprising twist in “The Abominable Bride,” the most recent episode of Sherlock (BBC), Steven Moffat’s contemporary re-working of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, is that the conspiracy uncovered by the work of Sherlock Holmes is the work of suffragettes. I found this curious given the fall ...