The Witch (2016)

The Witch (2016)
“New Englanders, Out of Their Minds” Horror fans reacted to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of The Shining with profound disappointment, arguing that the film’s artiness destroyed their visceral genre expectations, ones that were clearly and directly presented in Stephen King’s widely read 1977 novel. Robert Eggers’ new film, The Witch (2015) might be the ...

45 Years (2015)

45 Years (2015)
“The Ghost in the Attic” One of my favorite college memories is sitting in a small seminar room watching a VHS copy of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) on a small television screen as part of a class, “Philosophy and Film,” taught by Irving Singer, an expert on the nature of love, and a ...

A Bear Story (2015)

A Bear Story (2015)
“Bear, My Ass” In my yearly struggle to avoid thinking about the idiocy of the Oscars, I invariably fail when I fall in love with one of the brilliant shorts that is doomed to not win due to the pedestrian tastes of the majority of the Academy. This year will be particularly traumatic in the ...

Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (2015)
“Individual, Institution, Ideology” The greatest journalist in the history of cinema is neither Charles Foster Kane nor Bob Woodward, but lawyer turned documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman set out to replicate in the late 20th century United States what Emile Zola had done to the Second French Empire in the mid-19th century. The Naturalist novelist Zola ...

Room (2015)

Room (2015)
“Into Darkness, Again” Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s startling new film, Room (2015) begins with close-ups of material objects. The camera dwells on crumpled aluminum foil, and the rounded corners of a pinkish porcelain bathroom sink. The opening of the film is thus devoted to textures, the haptic realm that great cinema can sometimes approach, but ...

Anomalisa (2015)

Anomalisa (2015)
“Thigh Line (Liar) Triangular” There’s a remarkable moment early in Anomalisa, Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman’s new animated feature, which resonates with a lecture I give at the start of my course on the history of drama. In “Why Hamlet Doesn’t Go to the Bathroom,” I ponder the deflection of lived human experience entailed by ...

Dossier on Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

Dossier on Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
“Nighthawks of New York” By Simone Becque As Rhona Berenstein discusses in Lesbian Histories and Cultures, mainstream film representation of female desire was often alluded to or implied rather than shown, and when desire was made explicit it had a tendency to end in death (or falcons). The lack of which is what makes Carol, ...

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight (2015)
“The Cabin in the Snow” In The Hateful Eight (2015), Quentin Tarantino uses the cinema’s ability to manipulate space in ways that harken back to the great baroque Westerns made during the late classical Hollywood period. The film’s opening sequence, a grandiose exploration of the snowy landscape of the American northwest, with a mountain looming ...

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)
“Defrosting Reaganite Entertainment” A new cultural studies book series, “Object Lessons” provides an exciting opportunity for materializing media studies. Each book is devoted to the history and symbolic importance of an otherwise academically invisible everyday object. The early volumes in the series are devoted to such eclectic items as phone booths, hotels, golf balls, remote ...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
“At what point is it no longer Star Wars?” The six Star Wars films produced and/or directed by George Lucas developed into one of the most beloved mythological expressions of human civilization of the modern era. I thought about this quite a bit as I sat relatively indifferent to J.J. Abrams very good new film, ...