The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Echoes of Our Cinematic Fathers In his book, Allegories of Cinema, David James argues that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) draws mainstream Hollywood filmmaking into the orbit of experimental cinema. In his astonishingly ambitious new film about fathers and sons, The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance follows in Kubrick’s footsteps. The structure of the film ...

Oblivion (2013)

Cruise’s World In his 1995 study of philosophy and religion, French philosopher Jacques Derrida studies how human beings archive past experience. Translated into English as Archive Fever, the original title, Mal d’archive—“archive sickness”—diagnoses our culture’s obsession with failing memory, finding the cure not in pointing back into the past, but instead by conceiving of a ...

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

The Composer’s Flood and the Filmmaker’s Storm There’s a scene in the middle of Wes Anderson’s terrific new film, Moonrise Kingdom (2012), in which a slovenly father, Walt Bishop (played with typical drollery by Bill Murray) talks with his wife Laura (played by Frances McDormand) about their odd daughter, Suzy (Kara Hayward) who has run ...

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 ...