Mad Men: “The Jet Set” (2008)

Mad Men:
Televisual Meditations on a Literary Emergency The study of the adaptation of literature into moving images has become mired in a pedantic fixation on how poorly film and television does in capturing the greatness of their written forebears. The fascinating AMC televisual drama, Mad Men provides an opportunity to theorize more complex relationships between the moving ...

Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)
What to the Cinema is the Fourth of July? In the first of his Independence Day speeches, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” delivered in Rochester, NY on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass expressed the sentiment that July 4 may be a reason for celebration for white Americans, but not for people ...

Louie: “Pamela, Part 2” (2014)

Louie:
Louie’s World –In Yasmina Reza’s play, Art (1994), three Parisian friends—Serge, Marc and Yvan—argue over an almost completely white abstract painting that Serge has proudly bought for 200,000 francs. Marc is irate that his friend has spent a fortune on “a piece of white [excrement].” The play is an exquisite meditation on the nature of ...

Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013)
Back Down to Earth –Now that the dust has settled from the foolish exuberance surrounding the release of Gravity (2013), a claustrophobic Hollywood extravaganza set in outer space, it is time to grapple with Alfonso Cuaron’s tricksy movie. In October 2013, upon the original theatrical release of the film, New York Observer critic Rex Reed ...

The Railway Man (2013)

The Railway Man (2013)
Lightening the Traumatized Heart –During the first reel of The Railway Man, an excellent film adaptation of a memoir by British World War II veteran Eric Lomax, Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky attempts to discard as many filmic ghosts as he can possibly muster. In 1980, a middle-aged Lomax (Colin Firth), falling in love with Patti ...

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
How Many Worlds of Yesterday? –There’s a stunning scene in the middle of Letter from an Unknown Woman in which a lothario, Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), woos one of many lovers, Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine). He brings her to a restaurant where a machine operated by the proprietor rotates backdrops next to all of the ...

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
“Men were deceivers ever”: Of Shakespeare and Superheroes  –In the past few years, the seemingly disparate careers of Joss Whedon and Kenneth Branagh have crossed tracks. In 2011, Shakespearean Branagh, famous for tackling the Olivier canon of Shakespeare and cinema masterworks—Henry V (1989) and Hamlet (1996)—directed one of the Marvel superhero movies, Thor (2011). As ...

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Drinking Buddies (2013)
Child Shark Pornography –As the 36th annual Big Muddy Film Festival comes to a close, I am haunted by two very different films, one a feature, Drinking Buddies, which kicked off the festival, and the other a short, Neon Heartache, which won the Best Narrative Film award at the “Best of the Fest” final screening. ...

The Monuments Men (2014)

The Monuments Men (2014)
Saving Public Simpsons: Michel Foucault Meets George Clooney —In an essay about “Postmodernism and Television,” Jim Collins celebrates the self-reflexivity, what he calls hyperconsciousness, of the cartoon show, The Simpsons. In the first Thanksgiving episode, Homer and Bart sit on the couch watching TV coverage of the Macy’s Day Parade. When Bart observes that all ...

August: Osage County (2013)

August: Osage County (2013)
More Like December –There’s a great moment in Sirk on Sirk, Jon Halliday’s interview book with Douglas Sirk, the most important filmmaker ever to helm a film melodrama, about the director’s last American film, his masterpiece, Imitation of Life (1959). Sirk describes Annie (Juanita Moore), the African-American woman ignored by Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), the ...