Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
The (East) Wind in the (Palm) Trees, or, Her Father’s Shadow One of the epigraphs of Christian Keathley’s wonderful book on our love of cinema, Cinephilia and History, is from a 1940s lament about the decline of cinema by one of the medium’s foundational filmmakers, D.W. Griffith. The maker of Intolerance claims that films used ...

Mothlight (1963)

Mothlight (1963)
My Favorite Movie When people ask me what my favorite movie is, my first response is always peevish: Do you ask chemists what their favorite element is? “I like tungsten so much better than molybdenum!” After I settle down, I’ll usually argue Mothlight by Stan Brakhage. Made in 1963, Mothlight is less than four minutes, ...

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
Of Anchors and Animals In my work on natural history cinema and Hollywood romantic comedy, I observed that Failure to Launch (Tom Dey, 2006), a standard genre film starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, uses the animal world as a guide for human relationships. At the beginning of the film, squirrels assault McConaughey and ...

American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle (2013)
Louis C Minus In the now yearly coal black Christmas presents of David O. Russell’s cinematic exercises in overrated filmmaking, American Hustle seems to oddly theorize its own failure. One of the leads, FBI agent Richie DiMaso (played by Bradley Cooper), surely one of the most ill-treated G-Men in the history of cinema, requests two ...

The Odyssey (1995)

The Odyssey (1995)
One-Minute Cinema I just got done teaching my course on “Short Cinema Studies,” wherein I attempt to help student filmmakers analyze films similar to those which they have the budget to make, not massive features such as Citizen Kane and Vertigo, those darlings of the academic world. I begin the course with a 55 second ...

The Hobbit, Part Two: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit, Part Two: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Cairo: Here Be Dragons In the middle of The Desolation of Smaug, the second of a trilogy of Peter Jackson films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved 1937 novel, The Hobbit, Thorin, the king of the dwarves gives a rousing speech that asks the people of Lake-town to reclaim their heritage. Because of its location on a ...

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Neither Kisses, Nor Spider Women Of the many intriguing things about Dallas Buyers Club, Jean-Marc Vallée’s terrific new film about the AIDS crisis, the most haunting is the impressively restrained performance of Jared Leto, for which he most certainly should win Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Oscars. The film concerns Ron Woodroof (played by ...

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

As Johnny Knoxville Criticism Lays Dying I went to Bad Grandpa, the fourth Johnny Knoxville “Jackass” movie because its trailer featured the funniest thing I’ve seen in a movie theater all year: As Billy (played by Jackson Nicoll, a shockingly talented child comedian) rips off his Shirley Temple outfit at a children’s beauty contest, to instead ...

About Time (2013)

The Special Relationship In Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003), the British Prime Minister (played by the charming Hugh Grant) stands up to a U.S. President modeled on George W. Bush (played by Billy Bob Thornton with oily sleaze). When Grant leaves the room to get some papers, Thornton hits on Grant’s beloved, causing the Prime ...

Suture (1994)

Suturing Film Noir and Henry James I want to introduce you to the most talented contemporary American filmmakers you’ve never heard of: David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The filmmaking team has only made five films in the past twenty years, in a seeming attempt to match the glacial career of Stanley Kubrick. A graduate of ...