The Lobster (2016)

The Lobster (2016)
“Wherefore the International Art Cinema?” As I sat watching Yorgos Lanthimos’ elegant new film, The Lobster (2015), I was struck by how out of time it seemed. It is an exquisite piece of international art cinema, seemingly released fifty years too late. In the middle of the 1960s, such films proliferated around the world, with ...

The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys (2016)
“Nice Guys Finish First” This is my 150th post since I started writing regularly about films in current release, and it’s time to revisit my statement of purpose, a defense of learnedness as a framework for discussing the cinema. In applying Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” ...

“Toward a Cinema of Failure”

I often tell my students that my life is mostly failure. The acceptance rate at most academic journals in which I publish is 15%. That means, for every successful essay I write, some five will not get published. There is tremendous value in pulling back the veil on a career and showing students the messy ...

The Frame (2014)

The Frame (2014)
“Re-Framing Samuel Beckett” Through their fundamental design, most artworks make us choose between embracing the values of high art or popular culture. An exception is Jamin Winans’ recent science-fiction film, The Frame (2014). In the film’s first shot, we meet Alex (David Carranza), a skillful cargo thief who is desperately trying to extract himself from ...

Keanu (2016)

Keanu (2016)
“Oil and Smoke: The Carnivalesque Double Consciousness of Key and Peele” The first thing I do when I teach film comedy is observe that the funniest contemporary films were loathed upon their release. Critics dismissed Airplane! (Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, 1980) and Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980) as sophomoric, not seeming to notice the close ...

Another Earth (2011)

Another Earth (2011)
“Another Self” In the middle of Mike Cahill’s excellent science-fiction film, Another Earth (2011), a melodramatic story about the discovery of an inhabited identical twin Earth in the solar system, John Burroughs (William Mapother) angrily rebukes the desire of Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) to join an exploratory space flight to the recently discovered planet. Burroughs ...

I Origins (2014)

I Origins (2014)
“Aye I Eye” Mike Cahill’s 2014 New Age science film, I Origins begins with a series of close-ups of eyes. In voice over, molecular biologist Ian (Michael Pitt) explains that he researches eyes because of the fascinating connection between the human eye and the camera, both lens-based technologies of vision. His scientific quest is to ...

Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul (2015)
“This Way for the Transformative Cinema, Ladies and Gentlemen” The new Holocaust film, Son of Saul (2016) opens with an astonishing shot. Completely out of focus, we see some people in the background, perhaps digging near a tree. After what seems like an eternity, to the point that one considers going to tell the projectionist ...

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
“The Dark Light” The new Batman vs. Superman movie is getting unfairly drubbed by reviewers. It is admittedly an overly ambitious film, but refreshing given that most other comic book movies are the graveyards of the uninspired. The film begins with a bravura sequence in which Jack Napier kills Bruce Wayne’s parents, returning to the ...

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)
“The Latitudes of Home” Southern Illinois is abuzz with anticipation of two total solar eclipses, the first to take place on August 21, 2017. Indeed, the greatest duration of this eclipse will pass almost directly above my house in Makanda. I am just as excited as anyone else, but perhaps for very different reasons. Southern ...