Room 237 (2012)

Where Not to Hold Your Movie Class The first innovative essay about film I ever wrote concerned The Shining. Reading
 Sigmund Freud for the first time as a graduate student, I became convinced that the
 film’s horror masked a more conventional story about the failure of the American 
family. Contrasting Stanley Kubrick’s film to Nicholas ...

Hitchcock (2012)

On Murderers and Artists: Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho and Hollywood Exquisitely cast, Sacha Gervasi’s film, Hitchcock (2012), about the making of the master of suspense’s Psycho (1960) relies on star intertextuality to interrogate issues of gender and authorship in popular cinema. For example, Ralph Macchio portrays screenwriter Joseph Stefano as a therapeutic mess, perfect for writing ...

The Big Bang Theory: “Pilot” (2007)

Stairway to Heaven: Urban Space and The Big Bang Theory At the beginning of Stan Brakhage’s experimental American film, Reflections on Black (1955), a mysterious somnambulist ascends the steps of a New York City walk-up apartment building. Inside, he climbs the stairs, passing three apartments. Inside of each, a melodrama transpires, which he seems to ...

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings, No Books For those of us interested in the relationship between film and literature, Silver Linings Playbook begins promisingly enough. Based on a 2008 novel by Matthew Quick in which the mentally ill central character, Pat believes his life is a movie directed by God, the film is structured around engagements with an ...

Oz the Great and Powerful (2012)

My Beautiful Wizardness: Masculinity and Oz the Great and Powerful Despite crucial gains in the second half of the 20th century, American patriarchal culture resisted the full gender transformation for which feminists toiled for 150 years. Consciousness raising groups helped women resist the acceptance of passive roles, but men’s bad behavior continued unchecked. To stop ...

Argo (2012)

“It was the best of films, it was the worst of films.” Like a nineteenth century novel, Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film, Argo (2012) is tall on plot and short on thematic complexity. To pursue the ideological implications of this observation, let us consider two tales of two cities. First, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two ...

Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis Plays Obama The first sequence of Steven Spielberg’s new epic film, Lincoln (2012), finds the President, battle-weary, sitting on a wagon in the shadows, chatting with some soldiers. At first, an enthusiastic African-American soldier recites the beginning of the Gettysburg Address, interrupted by his more radical, angry African-American compatriot. Then, baby-faced white soldiers ...

Hugo (2011)

Happy Endings Only Happen in the Movies I’d like to consider two intertextual reworkings of the films of Georges Melies in American culture in order to position Martin Scorsese’s massive undertaking, Hugo, both an adaptation of a stunning graphic novel, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and a startling biopic of the early French ...

Promised Land (2012)

This is Cinematic Water The opening image of Gus Van Sant’s new film, Promised Land (2012) consists of the distorted hands of Steve Butler (Matt Damon): the camera recording them is submerged in a bathroom sink basin as he washes. I begin with this image because of all things, a film with land in the ...

Flight (2012)

Three Acts of Denial Very rarely have I encountered a film that begins with such little promise, yet ends with a flourish of transcendent beauty. And yet, Flight (2012) is such a piece. At first, Robert Zemeckis’ new film seems built out of as simplistic an ethical system as can be imagined. Pilot Whip Whitaker ...