Blazing Saddles (1973)

Blazing Saddles (1973)
The Western as Black Comedy Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation-era masterpiece, Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadasssss Song (1971), by reworking the traditions of the American Western, critiques how African-Americans must live under the yolk of white racism. In the middle of the film, a biker gang traps Sweetback. In a bizarre sequence, he engages in a duel with ...

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
“Da Return of Da Sweet Cinema of Spike Lee” Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) devolves into the sleazy violence of the exploitation films he loves too much. Indeed, the disease of not knowing when enough is enough infects the work of many contemporary American filmmakers. Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000) also suffers as a film with ...

The Crowd (1928)

The Crowd (1928)
“American Dreaming” In the midst of this seemingly endless collapse of the American middle-class, it is worth looking back to great films that continue to inspire us to become better than seems possible. A case in point is King Vidor’s The Crowd, released in 1928 as one of the last great American silent films. Every ...

Memento (2000)

Memento (2000)
“Detecting Himself” Critic Bernard Knox writes: “The hero… is thus his own destroyer; he is the detective who tracks down and identifies the criminal—who turns out to be himself.” While this analysis could have been penned about Memento, an astonishing neo-noir directed by Christopher Nolan, it is in fact an analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, ...

Mad Men: “Maidenform” (2008)

Mad Men:
“Can There Be Two Don Drapers?” In the 19th century, the theatrical melodrama built its structure around moments of emotional tension which would end scenes, acts, and sometimes the play itself, allowing people to contemplate the high stakes of morality on display. Characters would freeze into a stage picture, and the curtain would go down ...

Mad Men: “Waterloo” (2014)

Mad Men:
Mad Men’s Season Seven, First Half: A Tale of Two Intertexts The first half of season seven of Mad Men ranks as one of the most sophisticated intertextual webs ever developed by an American television program. Don Draper frequently watches French art cinema in order to escape Madison Avenue commerce, allowing his creative mind free ...

The Blue Umbrella (2013)

The Blue Umbrella (2013)
“From Van Gogh’s Shoes to Pixar’s Umbrellas” For almost 20 years, Pixar Animation Studios has led the charge in pushing the American animated feature film beyond even the dreams of its great master, Walt Disney. As Pinocchio aspired to become a real boy, Wall-e learns to love like a human being long after people have ...

Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners (2013)
“The Real Dilemma: Prisoners of Our Own Device” Influenced by the overly libidinal 1960s, film scholars spend a lot of time and energy tilting at the windmills of conventional cultures, such as the Hollywood film industry. Take, for example, Gene Youngblood’s assessment in his 1970 book, Expanded Cinema: “Profit-motivated commercial entertainment, by its very nature, ...

The Big Bang Theory: “The Helium Insufficiency” (2015)

The Big Bang Theory:
“Not Just a Lot of Hot Air” While on sabbatical this semester, I have been drafting a book, tentatively entitled, Molecular Cinema. I am interested in pointing my field of media studies in a different direction, one as concerned with materiality as it is with ideology. My most basic question is, What are images made ...

The Green Inferno (2015)

The Green Inferno (2015)
“After the Movie, Let’s Go Eat” Outside the AMC in a mall in Carbondale, IL, an angry looking Amazonian stares back at me from his poster advertising The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s latest horror film, adapted from the most revered of the “Italian cannibal” films of the early 1980s. Recently restored and released on BluRay, ...