The Romanoffs: “Expectation” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“I bet it’s all lies” Episode four of Matt Weiner’s The Romanoffs, “Expectation,” delivers another astonishing ending, evoking the single effect that Edgar Allan Poe finds so remarkable about the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The exact intertextual connection between each episode of The Romanoffs and specific short stories is less important than the powerful ...

The Romanoffs: “House of Special Purpose” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“The Fall of the House of Romanov; or, Rasputin, a Real Mad Man” Episode three of Matt Weiner’s The Romanoffs continues to demand attention to the way great authors construct tightly-contained short stories. In “The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale (1842),” Edgar Allan Poe praises the skills Nathaniel Hawthorne displays in ...

The Romanoffs: “The Royal We” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“Tell The Russians We’re Coming” Matthew Weiner’s anthology series, The Romanoffs is beginning to shape up as a collection of great short stories. In the second episode, “The Royal We,” Weiner tells the story of Michael and Shelly Romanoff, a couple whose marriage is collapsing. Figure #1: Michael and Shelly Romanoff at couples counseling One ...

The Romanoffs: “The Violet Hour” (2018)

The Romanoffs:
“A Magic Hour” The Romanoffs, Matthew Weiner’s new anthology series streaming on Amazon Prime, seems poised to rival his earlier Mad Men, one of the great dramas in the history of American television. The credit sequence begins with the Russian royal family gathering in a room filled with priceless oil paintings and statuary. Their clean ...

Maniac (2018)

Maniac (2018)
“Perchance to Dream, Televisually” One of the last major trends in American television, before it ceased to exist, was the rise of quality programming on Home Box Office. Started in the early 1970s as a way of delivering television to rural areas, by the late 1990s, HBO was creating the most sophisticated television in both ...

Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)
“Resistance is Futile, or Borg vs. Borg” The poster for Borg vs. McEnroe (2017), a Scandinavian film about the 1980 Wimbledon men’s tennis final directed by Janus Metz (alas, no relation), states that it is “the first truly great tennis movie.” I’m not sure whether that’s true, nor why it would matter. Indeed, Borg vs. ...

The Wife (2018)

The Wife (2018)
“Living Author, Dead Lover; Or, The Lass From Stockholm” Much of the critical response to Bjorn Runge’s excellent new film, The Wife has rightfully focused on the wonderfully subtle, yet astonishingly powerful performance by Glenn Close as Joan, the wife of Joe (Jonathan Pryce), a celebrated author who wins the Nobel Prize for Literature at ...

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Battle of the Sexes (2017)
“MacArthur Ashe, or Women Who Wear Glasses Sometimes Hit Great Passes” One of the foundational areas of inquiry in mass communications research is the “media event,” a public spectacle covered on live television, garnering huge viewership. Mass exposure to the media event fundamentally transforms the real world into a narrative experience shared across identity positions ...

Book Club (2018)

Book Club (2018)
“Club Sandwich” On the surface, Bill Holderman’s Book Club (2018) is a delightful romantic comedy. The film concerns four middle-aged women with various lifestyles who meet periodically to discuss books they’ve chosen to read together. The engaging star power of the central cast provides the movie with plenty of comic energy: Diane (Diane Keaton) is ...

Sorry To Bother You (2018)

Sorry To Bother You (2018)
“Forestalling the Extinction of the Black Rhino” Critics are rightfully singing the praises of Sorry to Bother You, the astonishing debut film of Boots Riley. Yet what is drawing people’s attention—the film’s plot about a young African-American man, Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) joining a telemarketing company and being told to find his inner “white voice”—withholds the ...